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Ohio's O'Shaan Allison runs the ball while Miami's Ryan McWood attempts a tackle during the game at Peden Stadium. (FILE)

Football: What to know about Ohio's first November opponent, Miami

Ohio is in dire straits. It hosts Miami on Tuesday for the annual “Battle of the Bricks” rivalry game while in a desperate search for both consistency and its second win of the season.

Neither will come easy Tuesday. The Bobcats have little success to cling to midway through their Mid-American Conference schedule. Both their offense and defense rank in the bottom half of the MAC, and they’ve lost to conference opponents by a combined 11 points. The RedHawks, on the other hand, have outscored conference opponents by 30 points, and their only conference loss was by a point.

Miami is tied for first in the MAC East Division standings, while Ohio is sputtering through a three-game losing streak.

Here’s a preview of Miami ahead of the 97th rendition of the Battle of the Bricks:

All-time series: Miami leads, 54-40-2. Ohio hasn’t defeated Miami since 2017, when it won 45-28 in Peden Stadium.

Last time they played: Nov. 6, 2019. The RedHawks beat the Bobcats 24-21 in Peden Stadium after scoring two touchdowns in the second half and nailing a 53-yard field goal on their second-to-last drive of the game.

Ohio outgained Miami 374-278, including 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Nathan Rourke. But Ohio also lost two fumbles, one of which resulted in a scoring drive for Miami.

Miami report: Miami is in its eighth season under coach Chuck Martin and is one of three teams in the MAC with a winning conference record. Martin is 31-24 against MAC opponents since he assumed coaching duties in 2014, and he helped Miami win the MAC Championship in 2019.

The RedHawks are tied with Kent State for first place in the MAC East Division standings, and their only conference loss came on Oct. 9 against Eastern Michigan. In that loss, the RedHawks didn’t score a single touchdown and fell 13-12, despite outgaining the Eagles by 128 yards.

Miami’s defense is among the most rigid in the MAC. It allows 22.3 points and 349.9 yards per game, giving Miami the second-best scoring defense and third-best total defense in the conference. 

In its four conference games, Miami has held each of its opponents to 100 rushing yards or less.

On offense, the RedHawks struggle to find the end zone, averaging 23.8 points per game. Like the Bobcats, the RedHawks utilize two quarterbacks — A.J. Mayer and Brett Gabbert — under center. Both Mayer and Gabbert complete under 60% of their passes and have each been intercepted twice this season.

How Ohio beats Miami: Ohio isn’t going to win easily. It’ll have to maneuver around Miami’s stout defense after struggling against Kent State in Week 8.

If the Bobcats want to stand a chance, they must find consistency in scoring and capitalize on drives. The Bobcats hit habitual cold streaks on offense, either failing to score early or falling quiet after halftime. 

Sure, Ohio averages 193.4 rushing yards per game this season, but Miami has been rock solid against rushing offenses during its conference schedule. Ohio will have to either lean on its inconsistent passing game or attempt to crack the best rushing defense in the MAC East. 

Stat to know: 20. Through eight games, the RedHawks have recorded 20 sacks for 144 yards.

Player to watch: Matthew Salopek, defensive back, No. 15

Salopek is the young centerpiece of Miami’s secondary. The defensive back leads the team and is third in the conference with 72 total tackles. In Miami’s game against Ball State on Oct. 23, Salopek notched a season-high 17 tackles, which surpassed his total tackles from his first two seasons combined.


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