Saturday, September 04, 1999

Miami, Northwestern coaches put emotion on hold

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EVANSTON, Ill. — Today's Miami-Northwestern game has more subplots than an episode of Seinfeld.

        It is Terry Hoeppner's first game as Miami's head coach.

        It is Randy Walker's first game as Northwestern's head coach.

        It is Travis Prentice's first game in pursuit of the Heisman Trophy.

  • Kickoff: 12:30p.m. today at Ryan Field (47,130), Evanston, Ill.
  • Records: Miami 0-0, Northwestern 0-0.
  • TV: None.
  • Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3).
  • Series: Miami leads 4-1 (last: 1995, Miami 30-28).
  • Line: Miami by 4.
  • What to watch: Miami's game plan will be to see if Northwestern can stop Travis Prentice. If the Wildcats can't, they are in trouble. If NU is good against Prentice, the pressure will be on Miami quarter back Mike Bath. Bath developed into a good quarterback by the end of last year. Northwestern is young on offense. Junior quarterback Nick Kreinbrink has yet to start a college game. “Obviously that's a concern,” NU coach Randy Walker said.
        And, of course, you have the Walker-Miami connection. Walker recruited and coached every player who will have a significant role today for Miami. He was Hoeppner's boss for nine years at Miami.

        “I expect some emotion after the game,” Walker said.

        But both coaches will tell you the game itself is about blocking, tackling and running. And even though this is a little MAC versus Big Ten game, Miami has the better blockers, tacklers and runners.

        The RedHawks went 10-1 last year, losing only to another 10-1 team (Marshall) on the road. The RedHawks have performed well the last two years in games against teams for big conferences. They beat North Carolina, which was ranked No.12, last year, and Virginia Tech, which was ranked No.12, two years ago.

        Northwestern is rebuilding and recovering from last year's 3-9 disaster.

        On offense for Miami, 10 of 11 starters are back, including Prentice, the nation's leading returning rusher.

        Prentice, a 6-foot-1, 228-pound power-lifter with sprinter's speed, rushed for a school-record 1,787 yards and 19 touchdowns last year.

        “He's had a great camp,” Hoeppner said. “He wants to go play football. We haven't hit him much.”

        The supporting cast is improved. Mike Bath, a first-year starter at quarterback last year, got better as the year went on. He threw as many interceptions in last year's opener (two) as he did the final six games.

        Two quality wideouts — Trevor Gaylor (38 catches, 653 yards, five TDs) and Sly Johnson — are also back. The entire offensive line returns.

        Hoeppner has dubbed the Miami offense “The Midwest Coast Offense.”

        “It's a combination of Midwestern-style football,” he said, “with the West Coast style of controlled passing.”

        On defense, six starters return, along with a group of players who got a good deal of experience as backups.

        Dustin Cohen, the 6-4, 245-pound outside linebacker from Summit Country Day, is as good on defense as Prentice is on offense. The senior had 146 tackles, including 12 for loss, and four interceptions last year.

        The big question coming into the season was at kicker. Hoeppner thinks Andy Brumbergs, a redshirt freshman, has answered it.

        Hoeppner has barely mentioned the Walker issue this week. But it's a factor.

        “It puts a little different spin on everything,” Hoeppner said. “Coach Walker knows more about our players than anything else. The offense will be different, and we've made some changes in terms of signals.”


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