Miami (Ohio) Thrives In Role As Underdog

Senior quarterback Josh Betts threw for 2,495 yards and 23 touchdowns a year ago for Miami (Ohio). He will lead the RedHawks into Saturday's season opener at Ohio State (noon, ABC).

According to legend, Miami (Ohio) has a wall full of tomahawks in its locker room. Each tomahawk represents an upset for the program once known far and wide as the Redskins.

The university has bowed to political correctness and changed the school's athletic nickname to RedHawks. But Redskins, RedHawks or whatever you want to call them – the Miami (Ohio) football team will be coming after No. 6 Ohio State in the season opener for each team Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

They will be led by one of the game's brightest young coaches in 38-year-old Shane Montgomery, who makes his college head coaching debut after four fine years under Terry Hoeppner as MU's offensive coordinator.

"That was one of the things I was thinking about in late December when I was named the head coach – that my first game would be against Ohio State and what a thrill that was going to be," Montgomery said.

Hoeppner left Miami after an 8-5 season last year to become the head coach at Indiana. The school turned to Montgomery and even named him as the coach on national television just before a 17-13 loss to Iowa State in the Independence Bowl last December.

Montgomery welcomes back 18 starters with 13 of them seniors. Those players have ventured with Miami to tough road venues like LSU in 2002, Iowa in 2003 and Michigan last year. They did not win any of those games, but they also helped MU advance to the MAC championship game the last two years.

"We've got 19 seniors on the team and 17 starters coming back," Montgomery said. "The leadership our seniors have provided has made it an easier transition for me. These players have played at some of the great venues in the country. They have played at LSU and at Michigan and at Iowa. We're going into a hostile environment against Ohio State and playing a top-10 program. We know it's going to be a tough battle. We know we're going to have to play well."

Montgomery discussed a formula he hopes gives his team a chance to pull of a monster upset.

"We feel there are three keys," he said. "We have to limit turnovers on offense. In the last few years when we've lost a game, that's been the big thing that has hurt us. We can't do that against a great and opportunistic defense.

"We need to minimize their big plays on defense. We need to know where Ted Ginn is at all times. He's a guy who can turn the game around on any play.

"We have to be sound and try to win the special teams. For us to have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, we can't have any plays that turn the game against us."

Montgomery noted that in most Big Ten-vs.-MAC match-ups the disparity in depth can tip the game in the Big Ten team's favor.

"There is so much more parity across the board," he said. "When the scholarships were 105 or 110, teams like Ohio State and Michigan stockpiled guys. It has leveled the depth out a little bit. That's probably the biggest issue for us – who is our depth and where did they come from?"

Miami Talented On Offense

The RedHawks were strong offensively a year ago, averaging 399.7 yards and 31.3 points per game. Only two teams held Miami under 23 points all season long.

Senior Josh Betts returns at quarterback after throwing for 3,495 yards and 23 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.

"Josh took over last year for Ben Roethlisberger," Betts said. "Even though Josh had been in our system for three years, there is no substitute for experience. He went through some growing pains early in the year. But he really found a groove at the middle of the year. That has carried over from spring ball and fall camp."

Sophomore Brandon Murphy (5-8, 188) and redshirt freshman Jimmy Calhoun (6-0, 224) figure to be the platoon at tailback. Murphy had 248 yards on 48 carries as a backup a year ago.

Miami's offense could take flight with a pair of prolific wide receivers in senior Martin Nance (6-5, 211) and junior Ryne Robinson (5-10, 171). Working with Roethlisberger in 2003, Nance set Miami single-season records for catches (90) and receiving yards (1,498). He also had 11 touchdown grabs. Nance suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game of last season.

Robinson took the reins and led the MU receiving corps with 64 catches for 932 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.

"We've got the receivers back with Martin Nance and Ryne Robinson," Montgomery said. "I think Josh will be more comfortable with what's around him. I think he will feel that he has a lot of weapons. He doesn't have to do it all by himself.

"They're both back and they're healthy. Ryne Robinson has been a fine player for us. After two years, he has already set the MAC career punt return record with five returns for touchdowns. He's had three others called back.

"Martin Nance is a guy we're excited about getting back. He had 90 catches two years ago. He was a big part of our offense last year. He went down in the first series of our fifth game. It killed him to not be out there with the team. His rehab came along really well. He feels good about where he's at."

Senior Dan Tyler returns at tight end, while four starters return on the offensive line. Senior center Todd Londot (6-7, 315) is the leader. Seniors Mark Kracium (6-5, 295) and Nate Bunce (6-7, 322) return at left tackle and right guard, respectively.

"We have four starters back on the offensive line," Montgomery. "They have to help us control the line of scrimmage in this game. We have to be able to run the ball a little bit. How effective will we be running the ball? I don't know. But we have to try and get the run established to take some pressure off Josh and keep their offense off the field."

Senior Todd Soderquist, who was 6 of 8 on field goals with a long of 43 yards, is the kicker.

Experienced On Defense

Miami has some play makers on defense, led up front by senior returning starters Marcus Johnson at end and John Glavin at defensive tackle. Johnson (6-3, 257) had 54 tackles, 6-1/2 sacks and 12-1/2 tackles-for-loss. Glavin (6-0, 278) had nine tackles-for-loss last year.

"Marcus Johnson is not the biggest defensive end, but he is very athletic and very quick off the ball," Montgomery said.

The linebacker corps returns all three starters and could be the best in the MAC. All three are seniors with Derek Rehage (79 tackles, 10 TFLs) inside and John Busing (93 tackles, 6-1/2 TFLs) and Terna Nande (86 tackles, nine TFLs) outside.

"Terna Nade and Jon Busing, our outside ‘backers, are both fourth-year players," Montgomery said. "I know they are looking forward to matching up against Ohio State."

The star in the secondary may be senior corner Darrell Hunter, a speedster at 6-1, 206 pounds. Also back are junior strong safety Joey Card and senior free safety Steve Burke.

"We have an experienced secondary, even though we lost a couple of starters," Montgomery said. "We have Darrell Hunter back at corner. He'll be a four-year starter. At roughly 210 pounds, he is the fastest guy we've ever had at Miami at 4.3 speed in the 40."

Freshman Jacob Richardson won the punting job in fall camp.

Also Notable

* Miami's media guide lists a number of "major victories" in program history. These include two wins against top-10 teams – a 10-7 win at then-No. 9 Purdue in 1962 and a 21-12 triumph over then-No. 8 LSU in 1986.

Miami has also taken three wins at Northwestern in the past 10 years – 1995 (30-28), 1999 (28-3) and 2003 (44-14). Miami also took wins at No. 12 Virginia Tech in 1997 and at No. 12 North Carolina in 1998.

Roethlisberger keyed the last MU "major victory," a 49-28 triumph over Louisville in the 2003 GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

"Miami has always had a tradition of playing these type games and a tradition of beating these type of teams," Montgomery said. "So our kids will look forward to the game on Saturday. I feel good with our senior class and our guys who have been in these type games before."

* Montgomery is the latest coach to take over at the program known nationally as the Cradle of Coaches.

The list of coaching legends who made their way through remote Oxford on their way to fame and fortune in football include the likes of Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, John Pont, Paul Dietzel, Bill Mallory and many others.

Current Northwestern coach Randy Walker and current Illinois coach Ron Zook played together at Miami in the mid-1970s. Walker went on and was the Miami head coach prior to Hoeppner.

OSU head coach Jim Tressel spent the 1979-80 seasons as an assistant at Miami for head coach Tom Reed.

* OSU has an all-time opening game record of 99-12-4. The Buckeyes have won five straight season openers, dating to a 1999 loss to Miami (Fla.) in the Kickoff Classic. OSU has also won 26 consecutive home openers, dating to a 1978 loss to Penn State.

* Miami has 62 players on its roster from Ohio. Two listed starters are from Franklin County – sophomore right tackle Charlie Norden from Dublin Scioto and senior cornerback Ryan Redd from Pickerington.

* This will mark the fourth meeting ever between OSU and Miami. OSU has won the three previous match-ups all in Columbus, including a 27-16 decision in 2000. OSU also won 80-0 in 1904 and 3-0 in 1911.

* Ohio State is 19-1 all-time against the MAC. Akron notched the only win (12-6) at the 1894 Ohio State Fair. OSU did not play any Ohio opponents from 1935 until 1992, when the Buckeyes hosted Bowling Green and took a 17-6 win.

OSU began scheduling MAC opponents on an annual basis in 1997. The results since then: 1997, Bowling Green (44-13); 1998, Toledo (49-0); 1999, Ohio U. (40-16); 2000, Miami (27-16); 2001, Akron (28-14); 2002, Kent State (51-17); 2003, Bowling Green (24-17); and 2004, Marshall (24-21).

* Miami is the 13th winningest program in Division I-A history with an all-time mark of 632-348-44 (.639) in 116 years of competition. OSU is sixth on that same list with a record of 764-298-53 (.709).

Miami also has more MAC titles (14) than any other program. Bowling Green and Toledo are next with 10. Miami also has the edge on BGSU for all-time MAC wins, 246 to 226.

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