Saturday, September 25, 1999

MU can't look past Chippewas


Even though Oct. 2 showdown looms with Marshall

BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Miami plays a dangerous game today. The RedHawks travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich., to play Central Michigan (1 p.m. kickoff). Mount Pleasant isn't an easy place to play — Miami's 1-2-1 there — but we're not talking about a physical destination.

        The danger for the RedHawks is where the CMU game falls on the schedule. It's a Mid-American Conference road game the week before the game of the year for Miami.

        The game of the year is against Marshall. That's Oct.2 in Oxford. Last year's loss to Marshall — Miami's only one of the year — cost the RedHawks a shot at the MAC title and a bowl bid.

        But Miami coach Terry Hoeppner isn't worried about his team's concentration wavering.

        “We haven't mentioned Marshall this week,” Hoeppner said. “We can't afford to. I think this group of players is mature enough to respond to this week's challenge.”

        Central finished last year 6-5 and tied for second in the MAC's West Division. The Chippewas have gotten off to a rough start this year. They opened by beating Eastern Illinois 33-17 at home. They've since lost at Syracuse 47-7 and at Purdue 58-16.

        The Chippewas lost their star, tailback Eric Flowers, to a knee injury during the Syracuse game.

        Flowers, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior, finished third in the MAC in rushing last year with 1,302 yards on 292 carries. He scored 16 touchdowns. Without him, the Chippewas finished with just 36 yards on 39 rushes against Purdue.

        He is listed as doubtful for today's game.

        “We are going to prepare for him to play,” Hoeppner said. “You don't want to not prepare for someone and then have him play.”

        On paper, CMU looks like a team Miami can pass against. The Chippewas are allowing an average of 262 yards a game passing. Miami has averaged 336 yards passing.

        Mike Bath, who came out of the Eastern Michigan game after spraining his ankle, is expected to start at quarterback. Bath has thrown for 816 yards and six touchdowns in MU's three games. But has completed only 45 percent of his attempts and has five interceptions.

        John Schacke was 7-for-9 passing for 113 yards in relief of Bath against EMU.

        The focus at Miami this week has been getting the running game going.

        All-American tailback Travis Prentice has rushed for 432 yards and six touchdowns in the first three games. But his yards-per-carry average is only 4.3, that's 0.6 off his career average. Eastern Michigan allowed him only 116 yards on 38 carries last week. That's 3.1 yards a carry.

        “We want to run the ball better,” Hoeppner said. “It is a total effort. Travis has still not played his best game yet. We have challenged him — which we don't have to do much — to play a complete game.”

        The flip side of keeping Prentice in check has been that opposing defenses have given up a lot of big plays.

        Wide receiver Sly Johnson has five receptions of 50 yards or more, including a 73- and 94-yard TD. Prentice has 81-yard and 58-yard TD catches.“When they stack up the line, Sly gets loose,” Hoeppner said.

       



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