Gabbert, RedHawks roll over Bulls

Miami's Jack Coldiron runs after a reception during Tuesday night's game vs. Buffalo at Yager Stadium. Miami Athletics photo
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Miami's Jack Coldiron runs after a reception during Tuesday night's game vs. Buffalo at Yager Stadium. Miami Athletics photo

Miami QB throws four TD passes in 45-18 win

OXFORD -- Miami combined opportunity with creativity on the way to an easier-than-expected 45-18 Mid-American Conference East Division win over Buffalo on Tuesday.

The Bulls committed four turnovers and the RedHawks turned three into touchdowns on the way to their third win in the last four games. They set a season high for points in a game.

Third-year sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert, the 2019 MAC Freshman of the Year, was 21-for-28 for 351 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers, one week after throwing for a career-high five touchdowns in Miami’s 35-33 loss at Ohio on Nov. 2.

Miami coach Chuck Martin was gratified to see his shake off the “Battle of the Bricks” loss to the Bobcats.

“That’s a long bus ride back from Athens,” the eighth-year coach said. “The kids are amazing. The coaches are amazing. We had a good week of preparation.”

Added to his 492 yards at Ohio, Gabbert broke Ben Roethlisberger’s 2002 record for the most passing yards by a Miami over two consecutive games. Roethlisberger amassed 819 yards.

Fifth-year junior wide receiver Jalen Walker finished with seven catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. He was three yards short of setting a career high for receiving yards. Sixth-year senior wide receiver Jack Sorenson added six catches for 112 yards and a touchdown and his fifth consecutive game with at least 100 receiving yards.

The RedHawks are 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the MAC, second behind 5-4 and 4-1 Kent State, which is scheduled to play at 5-4 and 3-2 Central Michigan on Wednesday.

The Bulls are 4-6 and 2-4 in the East.

Miami leads the series with the Bulls, 16-8, including 10-3 at home.

The RedHawks are scheduled to play their home finale on Tuesday against Bowling Green before wrapping up the regular season Kent State on Nov. 27. Kickoff times for both of those games has yet to be determined.

Miami literally right away went to its bag of tricks. On the first play after third-year freshman linebacker Matthew Salopek forced a fumble that fifth-year junior safety Sterling Weatherford recovered on the RedHawks’ 42-yard line, they called a flea-flicker that ended up with Gabbert finding a wide-open over the middle for a 58-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

“It was a unique play to start the game,” Gabbert said. “We knew we wanted to take a shot if we got the ball around the 50. I was nervous that I was going to overthrow it or underthrow. It was a good way to start the game.”

Sorenson is the sixth player in Miami history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season and the first since Nick Harwell in 2011.

The RedHawks also tried a reverse later in the quarter that was snuffed out quickly by the Bulls’ defense.

Miami extended its lead to 24-10 on second-year freshman running back Kenny Tracy’s 27-yard touchdown run with 7:05 left in the second quarter after redshirt freshman cornerback John Saunders Jr. ripped the ball out of a Buffalo receiver’s hands for his second interception of the season and his career. The touchdown was Tracy’s second of the season.

Fifth-year senior defensive end Dominique Robinson came up with a big stop on fourth-and-one from the Miami 21 within the last three minutes of first half. The RedHawks had three fourth-down stops as well as the turnovers.

“Turnovers are big in any game, but they can really make a difference in the MAC games,” said Salopek, who led the team in overall tackles with 12 and solo stops with nine. “It’s crazy with everybody beating everybody else. A big part of our identity is forcing turnovers, and fourth down stops are big momentum-changers.”

The RedHawks turned another Buffalo fumble into another score early in the second half. Third-year freshman defensive tackle Kobe Hilton recovered a Buffalo fumble on the Bulls’ eight-yard line and Gabbert converted with a 10-yard touchdown pass to sixth-year tight end Andrew Homer for a 31-10 lead with 9:19 left in the third quarter.

Hilton added another recovery after fourth-year junior defensive lineman Kameron Butler sacked Matt Myers and forced a fumble with 6:47 left in the game.

The fumble recoveries was the first of Hilton’s career.

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