Admitted micromanager Chuck Martin is in one of the darkest places any football coach can find himself – unable to plan, schedule or scheme.
Miami’s third-year coach said Monday during his weekly media session that the RedHawks’ uncertain bowl future has him at loose ends.
“What’s our schedule?” he wondered aloud. “We can play anywhere from (December) 17 to the 26. We don’t know when we’re playing. We don’t know who we’re playing. We’re trying to figure things out.
“I don’t really know what I’m doing, to be honest with you.”
The RedHawks, who made themselves bowl-eligible with a 21-20 Mid-American Conference win over Ball State to finish 6-6 overall after starting out 0-6, will most likely learn which bowl they will be visiting and which team they’ll be playing on Sunday. Until then, the focus will be on healing nagging bumps and bruises and preparing for the extra practices that fans assume are coveted by coaches. That’s not necessarily true.
“Everybody thinks it’s like having extra spring practices,” he said. “Extra bowl practices are like that movie everybody likes because they’re supposed to like it. Bowl practices look nothing like spring practices. Spring practices are way more physical. During bowl practices, you’re mostly one-deep at most positions, so it’s more walk-throughs, especially for your veterans. It’s not as big of a deal as everybody thinks.”
That in no way detracts from the magnitude of Miami’s accomplishment. Martin admits to being surprised by the RedHawks’ dramatic, record-setting turnround, capped by coming from behind to win a game that had so much on the line – bowl appearance, possible MAC East Division championship and berth in the conference title game.
Ohio’s win over Akron on the same night Miami was edging Ball State allowed the Bobcats to earn the division title. Miami and Ohio both finished 6-2 in the MAC, but the Bobcats qualified for the championship game because they beat the RedHawks during the regular season.
“For us, right now, those accomplishments are huge,” Martin said. “I remember when winning a game was like Mardi Gras. Then back-to-back wins were huge. I would’ve been happy to be physically in 75 percent of our MAC games. We were in 100 percent. I would’ve thought five MAC wins was incredible. We won six. We won a game with expectations – a game we were favored to win. Now the kids who are coming back can talk about winning the league. Why wouldn’t they talk about that?”
The RedHawks’ win over the Cardinals on Nov. 22 at Yager Stadium – before a crowd that included a student section more engaged than anybody could remember – led to third-year sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland being named for the second time this season the MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week. Ragland, now 6-0 as Miaami’s starting quarterback, went 26-of-35 for a career-high 380 yards and three touchdowns against Ball State – including two scoring passes in the second half.
Ragland now has thrown 178 passes in his career without an interception. Martin demurred when asked if he said anything to Ragland at halftime.
“I can micromanage as well as anybody, as my players and coaches will attest to, but I pretty much just let Gus play,” the coach said. “During the game, I just let him play. He’s got such a natural feel for the game that the more you bog him down mentally, the less he’ll play naturally.”
Martin was impressed with the versatility displayed by Ragland against the Ball State defense that basically took away his ability to run the ball and forced him into becoming a dropback passer.
“He’s certainly not a dropback passer,” Martin said. “He can be a zone-read, power-read, play-action-off-the-spread guy. I told him, ‘You did exactly what you supposedly can’t do.’”