Despite loss to Ohio, Miami still in MAC championship hunt

Miami (Ohio) quarterback Brett Gabbert plays against Ohio State during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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Miami (Ohio) quarterback Brett Gabbert plays against Ohio State during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Miami’s 35-33 Mid-American Conference football loss on Tuesday at Ohio was disappointing for the RedHawks, but it wasn’t devastating to their hopes of winning the East Division championship and reaching the MAC Championship Game.

Miami slipped to second place in the division with a 3-2 MAC record, 4-5 overall, with midweek games still to play against divisionrivals Buffalo and Bowling Green, both at Oxford’s Yager Stadium, before the regular-season finale on Nov. 27 at Kent State. The Golden Flashes currently lead the division with a 4-1 record after a 52-47 win over West Division-leading Northern Illinois.

“It was super frustrating, but we know that, if we win out, we control our own destiny,” third-year sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert said during Thursday’s weekly Miami football media session. “The team mentality is still great.”

The RedHawks, whose two MAC losses have come by a combined three points, are scheduled to meet the Bulls for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Yager Stadium on Tuesday, followed by a November 16 meeting with Bowling Green. Kickoff time for that game has yet to be announced. The Buffalo game is set to be televised on ESPNU.

The 6-foot, 205-pound Gabbert, in his second straight start after missing two games and three out of four with injuries, played like he was trying to make up for lost time. He bounced back from a rough first half against the Bobcats to finish 32-of-55 for a career-high 492 yards and five touchdowns. He teamed up with sixth-year senior wide receiver Jack Sorenson for 14 connections, including two touchdowns as Miami stormed back from a 28-0 deficit in the third quarter to score 26 unanswered points, but Ohio’s lead proved to be too wide to overcome.

The 6-foot, 192-pound Sorenson finished with a programrecord 283 receiving yards.

“I’ve been playing with Jack for three years,” Gabbert said. “He’s been here six years. He’s been playing for a long time. He knows how to play wide receiver, but it was a whole team effort. I mean, Jalen Walker caught a touchdown pass. Mac Hippenhammer caught two touchdown passes. I can’t wait for the next few weeks.”

Miami coach Chuck Martin admired the efforts of both Gabbert and Sorenson.

“Brett’s competitive level was off the charts,” the eighth-year RedHawks coach said. “There were so many plays where he just wouldn’t give up. We all have a lesson to learn from watching him compete. Sorenson obviously had an amazing game.”

Miami’s special teams, a weapon for the RedHawks on the way to their 2019 MAC championship, continued to be a source of frustration for Martin. Especially noteworthy was Ohio’s block of freshman Graham Nicholson’s 33-yard field goal attempt 11 seconds into the second half.

“If you look at the final score, that would’ve been nice,” Martin noted.

Martin wasn’t specific regarding how Miami came out of the game physically.

“We’re OK,” he said. “We have to get some pictures of some things. There are a few things we’re concerned about.”

Both Gabbert and Martin felt that anybody who was surprised to see Miami lose to an Ohio team that went into the game 1-7 overall and 1-3 in the MAC simply wasn’t paying attention. The Bobcats’ three MAC losses had been by a combined 11 points.

“Their record didn’t reflect how good they are,” Gabbert said. “They were a lot better than we’d hoped they’d be. In the first half, I couldn’t complete a pass, and we kept turning the ball over. In the second half, we started playing Miami football.”

“We were in a hole we deserved to be in,” Martin said. “We had a lot of bumps in the road. They were still just 11 points from being undefeated in the league.”

TUESDAY’S GAME

Buffalo at Miami, 7 p.m., ESPNU, 980, 1450

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