It’s been roughly 1,014,900 minutes, or 16,915 hours, or 705 days since Miami (Oh.) last won a football game—or in short, nearly two full years—but all signs are showing that the RedHawks will put an end to that this Saturday afternoon.
Miami (0-5, 0-1 MAC) is hosting UMass (0-5, 0-1) for the battle of the biggest loser at Yager Stadium in Oxford, Oh., and is finally going to end its nation-leading 21-game losing streak.
“I know UMass is sitting feeling the same way; they feel like they’re the best 0-5 team in the country, and we kind feel like we’re the best 0-5 team in the country, so I guess Saturday we’ll gonna find out,” said coach Chuck Martin during Monday’s weekly press conference. “They’ve played some good football and had three really close ones that they should’ve, would’ve, could’ve, and we’ve had probably four of five that we’ve obviously had a chance in the fourth quarter. Both of us are trying to get over the hump.”
These last 21 games have been brutal for a proud program that has seen the likes of Paul Brown, Bo Schembechler, Ben Roethlisberger, and many more come and go through the years.
Since beating the Ohio Bobcats on October 27, 2012, Miami has suffered 12 losses that ended in two scores or more, including eight of at least 24 points. In 2013, it finished tied for dead last as the country’s worst scoring offense, posting 9.8 points per game. The RedHawks also ended with the 107th-ranked scoring defense (35.7 ppg) and were widely considered the worst team in the FBS.
However, Martin, who came over from Notre Dame as Brian Kelly’s defensive coordinator in December, has already made a significant impact on the direction of the program and has the RedHawks competing again.
Last season, Miami went 0-12 and lost by an average of 25.9 points per game to opponents. So far in 2014, the win-loss column hasn’t changed, but the RedHawks have had a chance to win almost every game—they’re getting beat by 12.2 points (a difference of nearly two touchdowns from last year), including a 34-10 loss to Michigan at the Big House, where the Wolverines held a seven-point lead at halftime.
“I think [us and UMass] feel like we’ve come a long way from where we were, from being not competitive at all to being really, really competitive against some good people,” said Martin. “Now it’s how do you figure out how to close it out and do you have enough bullets to close it out.”
Despite its record, Miami has had some relative success on both sides of the ball this season. Notre Dame quarterback transfer Andrew Hendrix has revived what was a putrid passing attack in 2013, currently with 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns—good for the nation’s 43rd-ranked unit. The defense has struggled at times, ranking 87th in yards allowed per game (423.4), but has had flashes of improvement by holding Buffalo to 14 first-half points last week, and limiting the high-scoring Cincinnati offense to just one touchdown in the second half during Week 4’s surprisingly close loss.
“Short term, it’s hard not to cut off your head and slam it on the ground,” Martin said after the 31-24 defeat to Cincinnati. “Long term, I couldn’t be happier with where we are. I think we’re a year ahead.”
UMass’ record isn’t a good indication of how well it has played this season, either. The Minutemen have three losses of five points or less, taking Colorado, Vanderbilt, and Bowling Green all down to the wire. Like Miami, the defense has been inconsistent (albeit worse than the RedHawks’), but have found solace via the passing game (ranked 26th nationally).
Still, Las Vegas has Miami as a four-point favorite this weekend—the difference possibly being that the RedHawks have a slightly better red zone defense (t-93rd), where UMass (t-last) has allowed opponents to convert on all 21 opportunities.
Both with a combined record of 0-10 and both 3-2 against the spread, something has to give—I just think it’s time for Miami to lift the figurative load that has been on its back for nearly two years, end the 21-game losing streak, and move on from the dungeon as the 128th-ranked team in college football.
“We know within this program how good we are and we are nowhere near where we need to be, but we are a very good football team,” said Hendrix after the RedHawks’ near upset over Cincinnati. “I think the cat’s out of the bag on us—we’re a team that you don’t want to play.”