Miami’s football team got just what it needed in a 48-17 rout of Football Championship Subdivision Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
Coming off a 38-14 loss at then-No. 20 Iowa , the RedHawks imposed their will offensively and defensively on the outmanned Golden Eagles in the annual Homecoming Game at Yager Stadium, but it was Miami’s focus that impressed coach Chuck Martin.
“We went in there and, hopefully, we were sharp,” he said during Monday’s weekly media session. “Hopefully, there was no mental letdown after a challenging Iowa game. I was really pleased with our preparation.”
The RedHawks bounced back from a mediocre Thursday practice to create three turnovers on defense in the first half while scoring every time they had the ball on offense except for one possession that ended in a fumble.
“We knew that we had enough of a physical advantage in size and strength and speed that, if we got into position to make plays, we would make plays,” Martin said.
Miami easily prevailed despite missing several key starters with injuries. Linebacker Ryan McWood, a 6-foot-1, 223-pound fourth-year junior, was sidelined. Also out were 5-8 184-pound junior running back Jaylon Bester, 6-foot, 192-pound fourth-year junior wide receiver Jack Sorenson and 6-6, 246-pound fourth-year junior tight end Andrew Homer.
Junior wide receiver Dominique Robinson stepped in for Sorenson, leading Miami with three catches for 60 yards.
Martin felt lucky that the list didn’t grow during the win over the Golden Eagles.
“This is the week we didn’t add to the injury list at all,” he said. “Those were guys we were counting on a lot who didn’t even play in the second week. We had guys step up. Dom had a huge game.”
Martin wasn’t sure about the availability of the injured starters for Saturday’s noon Victory Bell matchup with the University of Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.
“We had our best tailback, our best receiver and our best tight end all out,” he said. “None of them are – nothing is season-ending – but we don’t know if we’ll have them back by next week. They were all in the 2-3 week range. I know they’re champing at the bit to play, and I know the training staff is doing everything they can to get them ready to play.
“We’ll keep getting everybody ready to play. There’s going to be attrition. There always is. We came into fall camp as healthy as we’ve ever been. We’ve got to keep trying to get better.”
The injuries and blowout win combined to allow Miami to give some young players valuable time on the field.
“It created some awesome opportunities for the young guys to make some plays,” he said. “There were times we had 11 true freshmen on the field in the second half. Those kids haven had many chances. To have kids not ready to play get to play is huge.
“All three quarterbacks we had in uniform played. Every offensive lineman we have played. It was awesome to see the walkons we have here get in there. It was really nice for those guys who give everything and don’t get anything in return.”
Another true freshman getting valuable playing time is 6-foot, 207-pound quarterback Brett Gabbert, who has entrenched himself as Miami’s starter after going 27-of-44 for 338 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The stats aren’t eye-popping, until you remember that he is a true freshman starting for a Football Bowl Subdivision program whose debut was on the road against the team ranked 20th-ranked team in the nation.
“Obviously, he’s going to start next week,” Martin said. “He had the first opportunity, and he took advantage of the first opportunity. We’re not shocked that Brett’s playing well.”