Thursday, September 28, 2000

Miami's Bath goes from backup to star




By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After his team's game with Ohio State, Miami coach Terry Hoeppner got a call from former RedHawks coach Randy Walker.

        “He said he never thought Mike Bath would be that productive,” Hoeppner said.

MIAMI at AKRON
  • Records: Miami 3-1 (2-0 MAC), Akron 2-2 (1-1).
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday.
  • Where: Rubber Bowl (35,202).
  • Radio: WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3).
        Bath, Miami's senior quarterback, has a way of surprising people. He nearly shocked all of college football, in fact, in that Ohio State game.

        Bath rushed for a career-high 105 yards, passed for 236 and very nearly willed his team to an upset.

        Ohio State coach John Cooper was thoroughly impressed.

        “I don't know if I've seen a more courageous performance by a football player than what he gave,” Cooper said. “He did a great job running their offense, throwing the ball and running the ball on possession downs.”

        Bath is the biggest reason Miami goes into Saturday's key Mid-American Conference East matchup at Akron with a 3-1 record.

        Bath is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and bench-presses 415 pounds, so he may be more physically suited for linebacker. But that wasn't an option for him.

        “A college quarterback is what he always wanted to be,” Hoeppner said. “He's got some talent, but he's really worked at it.”

        Bath was a star at Celina High School, where he threw for 1,943 yards and ran for 943 yards as a senior and led the Bulldogs to the Ohio Division II state semifinals.

        But Bath battled with John Schacke to be the No.2 quarterback for his first two years at Miami. Bath's opening came in 1998 when Schacke was hurt.

        Bath got the job by default, but he has never lost it. His record as a starter is 21-6.

        His first two years, however, Travis Prentice was the focal point of the offense. This year, with Prentice in the NFL, Bath has had to carry more of the load.

        He has responded. Bath set Miami records for passing yards (2,525) and TD passes (24) in a season last year. “And I tell everyone he's our most improved player,” Hoeppner said.

        Bath has completed 80-of-151 passes for 1,102 yards and eight touchdowns. He has thrown five interceptions, but three of them came during a desperate comeback attempt against Ohio State.

        Bath is his own toughest critic.

        “I haven't been as consistent as I'd like to be,” he said. “I'd like to have a high completion percentage.”

        He's twice been MAC Offensive Player of the Week this season.

        Along the way, he tied Sam Ricketts for Miami's all-time lead for TD passes with 44. Bath has 5,211 career passing yards — 674 yards shy of Ricketts' Miami record of 5,870.

        Bath has been given considerablely more leeway with the offense this year.

        “We've given him more freedom to check off if he wants to get out of a play,” Hoeppner said. “But with that, comes responsibility. He watches a lot of film.”

        Hoeppner's only criticism of Bath is he tries to do too much at times. “I tell him he doesn't have to be Brett Favre,” Hoeppner said. “I tell him he doesn't have to win the game by himself.”

       



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