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UMass football begins new rivalry with Miami (Ohio)

OXFORD, Ohio - The University of Massachusetts does not have many true athletic peers.

The combination of basketball just below the major-conference level, lower-level Bowl Subdivision football and top-conference ice hockey as marquee sports is rare.

Miami (Ohio) is one of the few to share that profile and it could be a natural rival for UMass, despite a lack of geographic ties between the two universities. On Saturday, the two schools will play for the first time when the football teams meet at noon.

It won't be UMass coach Charley Molnar's first meeting with the RedHawks. During his several stints as a MAC assistant, his teams visited the Miami Valley regularly, but rarely with good results. He didn't beat Miami until he became an assistant at Cincinnati.

"Not good ones. We beat them at Cincinnati, but in the MAC, no. Never had a win at Miami," Molnar said. "For me, I have memories of each team and I have a rivalry with everyone."

The following is a look at Miami's school, football program and history.

NOTABLE FOOTBALL ALUMNI - The best RedHawk of recent vintage is two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But Miami's real contribution to football comes from the coaches the school has cranked out.

The school dubbed itself "The Cradle of Coaches" and with good reason. Legends Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, Paul Brown, Red Blaik and Ara Parsegian highlight the many football coaches to attend the Oxford campus.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton also have Miami diplomas, as do RedHawk coach Don Treadwell and Indiana's Kevin Wilson.

The school will add a statue of Paul Brown to the Cradle of Coaches plaza at Yager Stadium before Saturday's game.

OTHER NOTABLE ALUMNI - Miami is one of four schools in the country to boast a Super Bowl winning quarterback and an American president (Benjamin Harrison) among their alumni.

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is also an alum of the southwest Ohio school.

Legendary baseball agent Marvin Miller, and Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger manager Walter Alston also went to Miami.

BOWL HISTORY - The RedHawks have won 15 MAC championships and have been to 10 bowl games, most recently the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl where they beat Middle Tennessee State 35-21.

Time & location: Noon, Yager Stadium

Records: Miami (1-2); UMass (0-3)

Last week: Miami lost at Boise State 39-12; UMass lost at Michigan 63-13

All-time series: First meeting

TV/Internet: WGGB ABC 40; WCVB Channel 5 Boston

Radio: WHYN-AM (560)

When UMass has the ball: The return of junior right tackle Anthony Dima last week helped solidify UMass' offensive line, which in turn helped solidify the offense, especially the running game.

The Minutemen showed signs of being able to better sustain drives against Michigan. If they can continue that against Miami, they'll have a much better shot at staying in the game.

UMass will try to keep the ball away from senior linebacker Pat Hinkel, who has three interceptions and a fumble recovery to go with his 21 tackles. Junior linebacker Chris Wade leads the RedHawks with 27 tackles.

When Miami has the ball: The RedHawks were dead last in the FBS in rushing in 2011, but the effectiveness of their passing attack often made rushing an unnecessary afterthought.

Senior quarterback Zac Dysert is Miami's best quarterback since Roethlisberger, but his top target Nick Harwell is out with a knee injury. Andy Cruse has been Dysert's favorite target in Harwell's absence with 26 catches for 150 yards.

"These guys can really throw the ball. This pass offense will be by far the best we've seen this season," Molnar said. "Having great play in the secondary is going to be critical. If our defensive line does their job it makes the secondary's job a little bit easier. But these guys are going to have to come to play on Saturday."

With extra defensive back packages likely to be in use regularly, junior Mike Lee will potentially see more action for the Minutemen.

Spencer Treadwell, the Miami head coach's sophomore son, leads the RedHawks in yards rushing with 95 on 24 carries.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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