By MIKE SMITH
The last time Miami’s Andy Cruse visited Boise, he was more spectator than player. He will look a lot more like a player this time around.
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Andy Cruse looks for room. Photo by Mike Smith.
Cruse, a redshirt senior from Turpin High School in Cincinnnati, is coming off a career-high 12 catches (60 yards) last week against Southern Illinois. The haul included one touchdown and another catch that came within inches of the goal line as time expired in the first half.

A week earlier, Cruse collected eight receptions against Ohio State. With junior standout Nick Harwell drawing focus from opposing secondarys, Cruse and his receiving corps mates should expect plenty more throws their way. It is up to them to take advantage of the opportunities. Quarterback Zac Dysert doesn’t mind spreading the wealth at all, and at 6-4, 214 pounds, Cruse makes a pretty good target.

As the RedHawks prepare for Saturday’s clash at Boise State, Cruse knows he needs to be ready. The Broncos, who last lost a game before Nov. 1 back in 2007, came up short, 17-13, in their 2012 opener at No. 13 Michigan State. With a bye on the schedule last Saturday, Boise State players are finally getting a chance to redeem themselves before their ardent home fans.

“I went to Boise (as a redshirt freshman in 2009).” Cruse said. “I think I was only on one special team, and we never got out there … but I just remember the atmosphere was incredible – obviously the blue surface and everything, but I (also) remember the fans and players. Boise plays tough. They play hard and their fans are loud. We didn’t play very well, but it was a pretty cool experience.”

He continued, “I think we had a punt get blocked or something and it went downhill from that.  You don’t want to turn the ball over. “

As if the final score of 48-0 wasn’t bad enough, the RedHawks also lost the services of receiver Chris Givens.

“They had that corner that plays for the Jets now – Kyle Wilson. He and Givens were going at it all game – just going back and forth.  I think he (Givens) tore his labrum and was out for the rest of the year.”

As disappointing as it was at the time, the injury came soon enough to allow for a medical redshirt. Two seasons later, as a redshirt senior, Givens became a key player in one of Miami’s most memorable football moments. Austin Boucher’s tipped pass on fourth-and-20 late in the MAC championship game ended up in Givens hands. He turned it into a first down and the RedHawks scored a few plays later on the way to winning the MAC title.
Cruse said he has been relatively healthy during his career, but he sustained a pair of broken ribs in Miami’s 2011 finale against Ohio University. “The healthiest I’ve ever been was last season … until that injury. The first month-and-a-half of the off-season was rough. Anything hurt – coughing, laughing … even sleeping. I healed, though, and I was fine for spring ball.”

After pulling out a number of close MAC contests on the way to the 2010 title, MU lost several close encounters down the stretch last year. Cruse noted games often come down to a few plays.

“We talked about this a lot in the off-season. It’s just the little things … that can win you games. That has been a focus – to do the little things,“ he said, “In the MAC, everybody is so close talent-wise. It is really competitive. One play can win the game for you. “

Cruse turned in one of those plays during the 2010 season when he hauled in a 71-yard game winning touchdown pass from Dysert with just 19 seconds remaining in the 27-20 RedHawks win.  His 179 yards  (eight receptions and two TDS) was sixth best in MU history.

After pulling out the win over Central Michigan kick started the RedHawks, who won four of their next five to reach the championship game.

Big plays and big moments, of course, make for great memories, and Cruse will have some good ones for his mental vault. But much of what he contributes is the unspectacular “work” that keeps drives moving and punishes defenses for “cheating” in protection schemes.

“It’s a lot of fun. I came in with Dysert, so we’ve been working out together over the years. … He’s obviously very talented. It’s been fun. It’s been a good experience,” said Cruse, who also benefits from the success of junior standout receiver Nick Harwell.

“The last couple years, he (Harwell) didn’t have to worry about (double teams that much). Now, everybody knows who Nick Harwell is. He’s going to see some double coverage. That opens up some stuff for myself and the rest of the receivers.”

When he came to Miami as a freshman, Cruse was impressed with the RedHawks receiving corps. “We had Dustin Woods. We had Givens, Eugene Harris, Armand Robinson, Jamal Rodgers and a couple other guys. We had seven guys who were just studs.  We had a heck of a receiving corps back then,” he said.

Now Cruse is coming down the home stretch with another talented group, as well as a record-breaking quarterback who has been tossing him passes for five years.

I remember back when I was a redshirt freshman, I roomed with Dustin Woods. He was like I am now – a fifth-year senior at the time. He (said), ‘Just wait. It’s going to fly by. It’s going to go quick.’ Sure enough, it’s almost over. I’ve been trying to take each day and enjoy it and really work hard. … You’ve got to make the most of your opportunities.”

Saturday’s matchup against Boise State will certainly be a challenge for Miami. But when you’re a senior like Cruse, you know it’s also an opportunity.

NOTES:
- Miami is still trying to establish a running game and managed to eclipse the century mark with 110 rushing yards in last week’s win over Southern Illinois. Boise State, of course, is far from the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks to which SIU belongs. However, they didn’t exactly appear to be a stone wall against Michigan State. Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell ran for 210 yards and two TDs on 44 carries. That was four more yards than the entire BSU offense.

- Boise State failed to score an offensive TD against a very talented Michigan State. Jeremy Ioane scored on a 43-yard interception return and the Broncos got two field goals out of Michael Frisina.

- Miami head coach Don Treadwell was an assistant at Michigan State before taking over as head coach at his alma mater.

- Boise State averaged 1.5 ypc which rushing the football against MSU.

- Although BSU got a score from one of two Spartan turnovers, the Broncos committed four turnovers. Michigan State held a 39:19 to 20:41 edge in time of possession.

- Junior quarterback Joe Southwick, 6-1, 187, completed 15-of 31-for 169 yards with one interception against Michigan State. He appeared in seven games last year, completing 23-of-30 for 198 yards, one touchdown and one INT.

- Downtown Boise is approximately 2,704 feet above sea level.

- Boise State, of course, has the unique blue playing field. Bronco Stadium seats approximately 36,800.

 


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