NU vs. Miami (OH): Keys to the Game

By Raj Ghanekar

In Week Four of the 2022 football season, Northwestern will take on the University of Miami (OH) RedHawks in the final game of its non-conference schedule.

The RedHawks come to Evanston with the same record (1-2) as the Wildcats, after losses to both Kentucky and Cincinnati in Weeks 1 and 3 respectively. After Miami’s quarterback Brett Gabbert was injured in the fourth quarter of the loss to Kentucky, the team has struggled to find success with backup Aveon Smith.

The Wildcats and Redhawks have played 9 times with the all-time series at 6-3 in favor of Northwestern. However, it’s been over 10 years since the teams have faced off.

Northwestern will look to regain its rhythm as it heads into its Big Ten schedule next week. On the other hand, the Redhawks will look to pull off a confidence-building win against an FBS opponent and gain some more trust in their system with Smith at the helm.  

Here are a few keys to this game:

  1. Northwestern looks to build confidence in the passing game. 

Junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski has thrown for over 950 yards in just 3 games, including 435 yards against a solid Duke secondary in Week 2. However, he still has a few kinks to work out in his passing ability, namely consistency and ball placement. This week, Hilinski will face a Redhawks defense that ranks first in the Mid-American Conference in interceptions. Hilinski threw 2 picks last week against SIU and he will need to be sharper against Miami. It should be just the challenge that Hilinski needs to find some rhythm heading into next week’s game against No. 14 Penn State. 

  1. The Cats should continue to get Cam Porter the football

The Wildcats offense is very much dependent on the success of their backfield unit, headed by elite rusher Evan Hull. Hull’s fellow running back Cam Porter is still finding his rhythm after missing all of his sophomore year due to injury. As the ‘Cats begin their Big Ten Schedule, they will need second options to divert some attention away from Hull, and Porter can fit that exact role.. Porter played well in Week 1 against Nebraska, racking up 94 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. However, he hasn’t performed at the same level the last two weeks. Porter has the opportunity to continue improving against a tough RedHawk defense that ranks 12th in the nation in rushing yards allowed.  

  1. The ‘Cats must keep their foot on the gas the whole game.

Last week, SIU came to Evanston and beat the ‘Cats in front of their incoming freshman class. It was a shocker and certainly didn’t leave Northwestern fans with a good feeling about the rest of the season. The Wildcats need to prove to their fans, and more importantly themselves, that the SIU game was a fluke and beat Miami by a wide margin. On the defensive end, the Wildcats must be sharp, especially in their depleted secondary. The RedHawks may not have Gabbert but Smith has a couple targets including 2021 3rd Team All-MAC WR Mac Hippenhammer. On the offensive end, the Cats need to overcome previous struggles with getting their offense going early.  

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