Sunday, November 10, 2002

Bowen corners market at Miami

Move from safety rejuvenates `D'

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Milt Bowen isn't ready to take credit for the improvement by the Miami defense since he was moved from free safety back to cornerback and senior Paul Tripp joined the lineup at free safety.

But the numbers can't be denied. Since the breakdown against Northern Illinois in which Miami allowed a 34-point fourth quarter in a 48-41 loss, the RedHawks defense has excelled.

Miami recorded a shutout of Buffalo, limited a good Toledo team to 13 points and held an Ohio team that had reached the 50-point level in each of its previous two games to 20 last Saturday.

The defense that allowed an average of 29.7 points while Miami was going 4-3 in its first seven games has allowed 11 per game over the last three.

The improvement is a primary reason the RedHawks will take a three-game winning streak and records of 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the Mid-American Conference East Division into their showdown at Marshall (6-2, 4-1) Tuesday night on ESPN.

"I don't think it has too much to do with the move," Bowen, a fifth-year senior, said of the improvement. "I just think it's more of an attitude that we've had since the (Northern Illinois) game. We basically want to prove ourselves."

"NIU is never far from their minds," Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said. "It probably has something to do with turning up the heat."

Despite Bowen's downplaying the impact of the lineup moves, his contributions - both before and after - can't be denied. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound former wide receiver ranks fourth on the team with 57 tackles, including 49 solo stops, third on the team.

He leads Miami with three interceptions, including two in the 31-26 win over archrival Cincinnati Oct.5, and is tied with strong safety Matt Pusateri for second with eight pass breakups.

He set MU's single-season record for returns and return yardage in 2000, and he moved into third place in MAC career kickoff-return yardage with a 23-yard return against Ohio.

Bowen was a wide receiver when he arrived in Oxford in 1998. He accepted a scholarship from Miami after Syracuse waited too long to act on its conditional offer.

Bowen, who moved to defense in 1999, started all 12 games at cornerback last season, but he was moved to free safety to take over for the graduated Rod Clark. He was moved back to corner after the NIU fiasco.

His most glaring error since the move was allowing a 62-yard touchdown pass from Fred Ray to Stafford Owens early in the second half of last week's win over Ohio.

"Milt is feeling more comfortable," Hoeppner said. "When he got beat, we were all shocked, but he came back and played well."

"I've still got a lot to learn," said Bowen, who doubles as Miami's also returns kickoffs. kickoff returner. "I've been a little bit on edge trying to get back on track. I was just getting used to playing free safety."

Miami at Marshall

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday


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