- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Nobody pegged Miami to do much of anything this season, not after a 1-11 record in 2009 made them one of the worst teams in college football. But as the old cliché goes, that is why they play the games. From the season opener against Florida, you knew something special could happen this season. Miami challenged the Gators hard, and though the RedHawks lost 34-12, they came away with the sense that they could play with anyone. It helped that nearly the entire starting offense and defense returned, because those players had another opportunity to get better. Zac Dysert showed flashes as a freshman last season, and he put together a nice season before lacerating his spleen late and making way for redshirt freshman Austin Boucher. Armand Robinson had another good year at receiver, but Nick Harwell also emerged to give the RedHawks a powerful duo -- the two combined for over 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns. But perhaps the biggest improvement came on defense, where Miami ranked No. 5 in the MAC. Defensive tackle Austin Brown emerged as a force, and Miami was able to put itself in position to make the MAC championship game with a win over Temple late in the season. After Ohio lost in the last regular-season game of the year, Miami went into the MAC title game as heavy underdogs but beat Northern Illinois 26-21 with 33 seconds to go. The win completed the best turnaround in the country this season as the RedHawks finished 9-4, making MAC Coach of the Year Mike Haywood one of this season's best stories.
Offensive MVP: WR Armand Robinson. Tough one here, because Dysert, Harwell and RB Thomas Merriweather all deserve recognition. Robinson had 90 catches for 981 yards -- both career highs -- along with six touchdowns en route to second-team All-MAC honors.
Defensive MVP: DT Austin Brown. A co-captain, Brown anchored the defensive line and had 10 tackles for loss and three sacks, and also was an All-MAC second-team selection. LB Evan Harris also deserves recognition for leading the team in tackles.
Turning point: 34-13 loss to Ohio on Oct. 23. Miami had the chance to get itself in the driver’s seat in the East but lost. Instead of going in the tank, the RedHawks reeled off five straight wins, including a crucial 23-3 win over Temple in the season finale that helped get them into the MAC title game.
What’s next: Miami plays Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6 and will have plenty of returning players for next season. About 45 freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores traveled to the MAC title game.