Miami hopeful extra day enables Gabbert to play vs. Northern Illinois

Junior quarterback injured on final play of Tuesday’s loss to Ohio

OXFORD -- Miami couldn’t have picked a better part of the football schedule for an extra day between games.

The RedHawks hope the break gives Brett Gabbert the time his ankle needs to heal in time to play at Northern Illinois on Wednesday.

Miami’s 6-foot, 205-pound junior quarterback was injured on the final play of the RedHawks 37-21 Mid-American Conference home loss to Ohio on Tuesday.

“It’s just an ankle sprain,” ninth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin said Thursday. “He’s doing OK. The extra day worked out better. He’s in a boot. We’ll see as the week goes.”

A healthy Gabbert would be helpful in helping Miami (4-6, 2-4 MAC East Division) maintain the late-season progress it was showing in its passing game. Gabbert finished 20-of-26 for 244 yards and three touchdowns against the Bobcats in his third game since injuring his left shoulder late in the RedHawks’ season-opening non-conference loss at Kentucky. All three touchdown passes were caught by fifth-year senior wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer, his career high. He also tied his career high with eight receptions for 107 yards.

“No doubt, the timing is getting better between those two, but also with the whole passing game, period,” Martin said. “We knew it would get better. It’s getting better every week.”

The passing game was one of the few bright spots for Miami against the archrival Bobcats in the annual “Battle of the Bricks” game. The RedHawks trailed, 10-7, at halftime before Ohio scored on its last six possessions to pull away for the win that left the Bobcats in sole possession of first place in the East. The Bobcats simply wore down Miami’s defense, possessing the ball for 41:20 of the 60 minutes.

“In the second half, they out-executed us and out-physicaled us,” Martin said. “We didn’t tackle on the back end. That’s why we talk about tackling on the back end. We talk all week about tackling on the perimeter.

“They got chunk plays. That’s how you score in college football these days. We’re still not running the ball as well as we’d like. We threw it around pretty good.

“This is a loss that will stick in our craw for a while – probably until next September.”

This week’s MAC results leaves Miami fifth in the East with a possible bowl bid the only remaining goal. The RedHawks would have to win at Northern Illinois on Wednesday and against Ball State at Miami’s Yager Stadium on Nov. 22 to reach the six wins needed to qualify for a bowl bid. Kickoff for both games is set for 7 p.m.

A bowl bid would be Miami’s sixth in the last seven seasons after reaching just two from 2006 through 2015, but defensive tackle Austin Ertl believes the RedHawks have more than a bowl bid to play for, even after losing to Ohio.

“We have a 24-hour rule,” the 6-2, 290-pound junior said on Thursday. “We were extremely disappointed, but the No. 1 thing is staying together. That’s the culture of this team. That’s what coach Martin has built in his years here. That made it easy for me. The culture was already built. Our best friends are all on the team.”

Younger RedHawks also are thinking about soon-to-be departing older teammates such as seventh-year senior middle linebacker Ryan McWood, the Wisconsin native said.

“Those guys who were here before me made it easier for me,” Ertl said. “We want to send those dudes off the right way.”

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

Miami at Northern Illinois, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 980, 1450

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