The 1-2 RedHawks will be led offensively by redshirt freshman quarterback Aveon Smith, who is due to make his third consecutive start after taking over Brett Gabbert. The fourth-year junior, a third-team All-Mid-American Conference pick last season and the 2019 MAC Freshman of the Year, suffered an injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder that Martin acknowledged on Monday will likely keep him out for the rest of the season.
“He most likely won’t play this year,” the ninth-year coach said of Gabbert. “He’s healing up fine, but he’ll be out for a while. He’s not on our radar. We’ll be fine without him.
“‘AV’ continues to grow. With a new starting quarterback, the package shrinks down a little bit, but his execution is getting better. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“He didn’t have as much time against Cincinnati as he did against Robert Morris,” added Martin, referring to the previous week’s win over the Football Championship Subdivision Colonials. “He mostly made good decisions.”
Martin particularly admires Smith’s passion and drive, displayed most prominently on a fourth-and-goal at Cincinnati’s 1-yard line at a time when a touchdown and extra point would’ve cut the Bearcats’ lead to 31-24. Smith was stopped inches short of the goal line.
“He had eight good players between him and the goal line, and you could tell he was (angry) when he came to the sideline that he didn’t make it,” Martin said. “He walked right by me. I didn’t say anything. You could tell he thought he should have made it.”
“He fights super hard,” sixth-year senior wide receiver Jalen Walker said.
The RedHawks came out of the game against a Cincinnati team that reached last season’s college football playoffs relatively healthy, Martin said. That was much different than the aftermath of last season’s 49-14 Bearcats’ win in which they piled up 542 yards of total offense to Miami’s 278.
For Miami, that’s a pleasant scenario compared to previous seasons, when literally bruising schedules against teams such as Iowa and Ohio State and Minnesota and Wisconsin would take physical tolls.
“I liked the way the kids competed,” he said. “Physically, we matched up better than a year ago. We’re a little banged up. We’ll do everything to show up at Northwestern like we did at Kentucky and UC.”
The RedHawks opened the season with a 37-13 loss at Kentucky, ranked eighth in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Walker hopes he and his teammates can employ what they learned from a game against Cincinnati that to many seemed to be winnable.
“The game looked the same (on video) as it did on the field,” he said. “There were plays we know we could have made and didn’t. We have to stay on it. It’s a learning opportunity.”
Miami at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., BTN, 980, 1450