The University of Massachusetts returns to Gillette Stadium Saturday, hosting a Miami (Ohio) team in a significant state of turmoil.
The winless RedHawks fired head coach Don Treadwell Sunday following a 21-9 home loss to Central Michigan.
Miami named former wide receivers coach Mike Bath the interim head coach. Bath will also function as the offensive coordinator and assume play-calling responsibilities.
The change at the top made preparing a challenge for Minutemen coach Charley Molnar, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“We have no idea how they’re going to play defense this week with the new head coach,” Molnar said after Wednesday’s practice. “They probably are changing things up. In situations where they haven’t blitzed in the past I’d imagine they’d blitz. They’re just doing things differently.”
Offensively, the RedHawks feature a dual-quarterback system. Austin Gearing handles the running duties, carrying the ball 51 times for a team-best 248 yards. He has completed just 2-of-6 passes. Austin Boucher, meanwhile, has thrown for 524 yards.
Against Kansas State, UMass struggled with Daniel Sams’ mobility. Sams rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown.
“I think (Sams) and (Gearing) are so similar,” Molnar said. “They’re both really big and strong. ... Our guys are used to tackling big quarterbacks and I expect that we put them on the ground fast.”
The defensive line’s ability to control the run game has been a focus all season and has been an area of progress in recent weeks. Defensive end Kevin Byrne, one of the leaders on the defensive line, missed last week’s game for undisclosed reasons and was not seen at practice this week.
Much of his responsibilities will fall to senior Brandon Potvin.
“I’ve been working for this opportunity for two years honestly, and I couldn’t be more ready for it,” Potvin said.
Potvin was a starter his sophomore season but has battled injuries for the last two seasons.
“We felt like we were there for Vanderbilt, we felt like that was gonna be the breaking point to really get us over the top and it wasn’t,” he said. “But we bounced back, we’re ready to go and we’re definitely looking forward to Miami and taking it to them.”
MAC INKS BOWL DEAL — The Mid-American Conference announced Friday its six-year affiliation with the newly created Boca Raton Bowl game in Boca Raton, Fla. The bowl game will be owned and operated by ESPN. The Boca Raton Bowl will be a pre-Christmas bowl game and will be televised nationally on ESPN or ESPN2.
Time & Location: 3 p.m, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
Records: Miami (0-5, 0-1 MAC); UMass (0-5, 0-1)
All-time series: Miami leads 1-0
Previous Meeting: Miami beat UMass 27-16 last season
Internet: ESPN3.com; weei.com/umass
Radio: 105.5-FM (WWEI) 91.1-FM (WMUA)
When UMass has the ball: Plenty of eyes will rest on starting quarterback A.J Doyle, who went 4 for 17 and was injured (ankle) last week against Bowling Green. If Doyle’s health improves, the Minutemen should generate some movement against a Miami squad in disarray.
Jamal Wilson figures to play a bigger role at running back for UMass following a 119-yard performance a week ago. Stacey Bedell and Lorenzo Woodley did not play last week due to injury, but did practice this week. Tajae Sharpe and Rob Blanchflower could have big games against a RedHawks defense that allows 295.9 yards passing.
When Miami has the ball: Miami’s offense has the potential to be a bit of a mystery with Treadwell’s departure. The dual-quarterback system revolves around Austin Boucher’s passing and Austin Gearing’s running. Defensively, the Minutemen have gone with four-man fronts in recent weeks and experienced positive results against Vanderbilt and Bowling Green. Molnar thinks leading tackler Ed Saint-Vil will dress this weekend, which should solidify the defense.