Know Your Opponent: Week 1 (Miami RedHawks)

BY CAMERON SURDYK | Ball State Sports Link

It’s no secret that Ball State and Miami aren’t the best of friends.

What has become known as the “Red Bird Rivalry” has ended with the Miami RedHawks taking the coveted trophy home 19 times, while the Ball State Cardinals have only bested the Redhawks 13 times in the 33 meetings between the two teams.

This year, the Cardinals face the defending MAC Champions in the first game of an adjusted six-game season.

Ball State Head Coach Mike Neu

Ball State is kicking off its 96th season of football and its fifth under head coach Mike Neu who quarterbacked the Cardinals to the Mid-American Conference championship in 1993 as the league’s player of the year.

 The first meeting between the two schools occurred in 1931 when Ball State was thrashed by Miami 47-9 in Oxford.

After playing to a scoreless tie in 1940, the two teams wouldn’t meet again until 1975, two years after Ball State joined the MAC.

Ball State and Miami have opened a season against each other seven times, but not since 2007. The RedHawks hold a 4-2-1 advantage in those meetings

After losing three straight to Miami, 2019 was different.

Miami had already clinched the MAC East Division title when they traveled to Muncie in search of a confidence boosting win on its way to Detroit for a MAC Championship game against Central Michigan.

The Cardinals had other plans, however, as they surged with a 27-0 run in the second half to beat Miami, 41-27, behind quarterback Drew Plitt’s 317 yards passing and Caleb Huntley’s 134 yards rushing.

Plitt threw for three TDs, while Huntley also found the endzone three times in the win. Amechi Uzodinma II sealed the win with two fourth-quarter interceptions.

The Cardinals captured the Red Rivalry Trophy after last year’s win in Muncie.

Miami will be looking to take back the Red Bird Rivalry Trophy in Oxford this Wednesday. To do that, the RedHawks will rely heavily on their returning sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert.

When Miami opened the 2019 season at Iowa, Gabbert became the first true freshman quarterback to open the season as the starter in Miami football history. The younger brother of NFL quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, started all 14 games last season, throwing for 2,411 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Gabbert was instrumental in Miami’s win over CMU in the MAC Championship game and will be looking to exercise some demons against the Cardinals as he was benched during the second half by head coach Chuck Martin in order for him to remain healthy for the MAC Championship.

Behind the young Gabbert is a strong supporting cast of wide receivers, most notably Jack Sorenson, a redshirt senior who finished last year with 44 catches for 568 total yards.

The running game will also be a threat for Miami going forward, with senior Jaylon Bester looking to return to his best after leading the RedHawks with 14 rushing touchdowns in 2019.  

In his last 10 games, Bester has rushed for 725 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 12 catches for 59 yards through the air. Bester has scored a touchdown in 10-straight games and has four multi-touchdown and two 100-yard rushing performances.

If Neu and company want to turn a new leaf in the momentum of the Red Bird Rivalry, they will have to deal with Miami’s strong offense full of veteran talent led by a young, confident quarterback.

Ball State and Miami kick off at 7p.m. on CBS Sports Network. Sports Link GameDay starts at 6 p.m. on Twitter (@bsusportslink).