OXFORD -- Miami football coach Chuck Martin described the RedHawks first half during a 27-9 Mid-American Conference win on Saturday at Akron as his team’s best half of the season.
“We moved the ball,” he said Monday. “We didn’t go backwards. We didn’t get penalized. The defense was fantastic. The special teams were good. The offense wasn’t as efficient in the second half, but the defense was really good. (Akron) was moving the ball and had a chance to get it to 20-10, but Yahsyn McKee punched the ball out.”
Sophomore defensive back Ambe’ Caldwell recovered the fumble forced by McKee, a junior defensive back, and sophomore defensive back Jacquez Warren followed up with a 62-yard return of an interception for a touchdown to seal the win.
“It was a really good team victory,” Martin said. “Our penalties were down. We were up, 27-3, on the road against a team that lost to Kent State by six and Bowling Green by three.”
Miami improved to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the MAC East Division despite being outgained in total offense, 396-268, primarily by forcing three turnovers while committing none and being whistled for just two penalties for 20 yards while the Zips (1-8, 0-5) were flagged seven seven times for 80 yards.
Junior quarterback Brett Gabbert, in his second game since returning from a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury suffered late in the season-opening loss at Kentucky, went 13-of-23 for 184 yards and one touchdown. His game included a 58-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer that set up sophomore Graham Nicholson’s 33-yard field goal for a 17-3 lead with 1:11 left in the first half.
The pass was Gabbert’s longest of the season. Freshman Aveon Smith earlier had a 76-yard connection with redshirt junior wide receiver Miles Marshall.
“That was definitely fun,” Hippenhammer said Monday. “We appreciate what (backup quarterback) Aveon Smith did. He was in a tough position and gave it his all, but Brett being back allows us to open up the playbook.”
“That was nice,” Martin said. “Early on, we weren’t hitting those. We’ve got to continue to get chunk plays. If you want to score these days, you’ve got to get chunk plays.”
Warren and sophomore punter Dom Dzioban earned MAC East weekly honors on Monday. The 6-foot, 190-pound Warren was named the defensive player of the week after finishing with five tackles and helping the defense log four sacks. Dzioban, who averaged a career-best 48.1 yards per punt with three of more than 50 yards, including one of 67 yards, was special teams player of the week. He produced two punts downed inside Akron’s 20-yard line.
The RedHawks are virtually out of the running for a division championship and berth in the MAC Championship game, but they still could qualify for a bowl game with wins in two of their last three games, despite losing two straight games and three out of four before beating Akron.
“The last few weeks were tough,” said the 5-11, 190-pound Hippenhammer, the team’s leading receiver with 33 catches for 444 yards and four touchdowns. “That win at Akron helped us come back. That win helped us to be in our best place.”
Miami now enters its annual stretch of weekly, mid-week prime-time games, starting with a “Battle of the Bricks” matchup against Ohio on Nov. 8 on the RedHawks home field at Yager Stadium. The start time still was yet to be determined on Monday.
Miami then is scheduled to travel to DeKalb, Ill., to face Northern Illinois on Nov. 18, followed by the regular-season finale against Ball State on Nov. 22 in Oxford.
“We’ll just treat it like a bye week,” Hippenhammer said. “We’ll be in good shape.”
Martin had mixed feelings about the schedule.
“We’re getting a couple of days rest,” he said. “You get into a rhythm, then you take a couple of days off. Some of our kids have played 500 snaps. It’ll be fine.”
Tuesday, Nov. 8
Ohio at Miami, TBA, ESPN, ESPN2 or CBS Sports Network, 980, 1450
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