Miami’s road to the MAC Championship Game

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

OXFORD — The Miami RedHawks will play in their sixth Mid-American Conference Championship Game when they face Toledo on Saturday at noon at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Rockets (11-1, 8-0 MAC), the MAC West Division winners, make their second straight trip to the conference championship. They beat Ohio 17-7 in last year’s conference title game.

Here’s how the RedHawks (10-2, 7-1 MAC), the MAC East Division champs, got to this point:

Week 1: Miami (Fla.) 38, Miami 3

The Hurricanes scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the game and added a 34-yard field goal on their ensuing possession for an early 10-0 lead.

Miami’s Gage Larvadain caught a game-high eight receptions for 80 yards — including a 30-yard catch from quarterback Brett Gabbert that moved the RedHawks into Hurricane territory in second quarter. The drive was capped by a 48-yard field goal from Graham Nicholson with 58 seconds to play in the half to close the gap, 13-3.

Miami (Fla.) scored the next 25 points to hand the RedHawks (1-0) a season-opening loss. Gabbert moved into fifth all-time at Miami with 6,386 career passing yards, surpassing position coach Gus Ragland.

Week 2: Miami 41, Massachusetts 28

Gabbert threw for 302 yards and Larvadain finished with eight catches for 273 yards and three touchdowns to give the RedHawks (1-1) their first win of the season.

Gabbert connected with Larvadain on a 99-yard TD pass — the longest in school history. Gabbert also moved into fourth all-time in career passing yards (6,688) with his 302 yards.

Larvadain’s 273 yards receiving was the second-most in program history, behind Jack Sorenson’s 283 yards at Ohio in 2021.

Week 3: Miami 31, Cincinnati 24, OT

Joe Wilkins Jr.’s 8-yard touchdown catch in overtime and Yahsyn McKee’s game-sealing interception gave the RedHawks (2-1) their first Victory Bell win since 2005.

The RedHawks got off to a perfect start, as Larvadain caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert on the opening play from scrimmage.

McKee forced overtime by blocking a field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Gabbert passed for 237 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Miami offense.

Week 4: Miami 62, Delaware State 20

The RedHawks (3-1) scored on their first nine drives and five different players had rushing touchdowns in Miami’s home-opening victory.

The RedHawks had 466 rushing yards, and Gabbert completed 75 percent of his passes (15 of 20) for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Miami rolled up 336 first-half yards on 33 offensive plays and finished the game with 646 yards of offense. It was the first time Miami cracked 600 yards in total offense since 2017 when it had 612 yards against Bowling Green.

The RedHawks started the season off at 3-1 for the first time since 2003.

Week 5: Miami 23, Kent State 3

Miami scored 23 unanswered points and had seven sacks in its Mid-American Conference opener.

The RedHawks (4-1, 1-0 MAC) held the Golden Flashes to 36 yards rushing on 35 attempts, and Nicholson was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals.

Wilkins Jr. had 110 yards receiving to along with three catches.

Week 6: Miami 27, Bowling Green 0

The RedHawks (5-1, 2-0 MAC) posted their first shutout since 2007 and extended their longest winning streak in 20 years to five games.

Miami received the opening kickoff and embarked on a methodical 17-play scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. The RedHawks converted three third downs and one fourth down in a possession that lasted more than 11 minutes. Gabbert hit on all six of his pass attempts, and Rashad Amos recorded eight carries on the drive — including a 1-yard scoring plunge with 3:29 left in the quarter.

Miami’s defense held Bowling Green to 135 yards of total offense.

Week 7: Miami 34, Western Michigan 21

Gabbert threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns and added a career-best two rushing scores as Miami (6-1, 3-0 MAC) notched its sixth-straight win.

The RedHawks became bowl eligible for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

Gabbert moved past 7,500 passing yards in his career, which ranked third in program history. Gabbert (8,179) became the third player in Miami history to surpass 8,000 total yards, behind Zac Dysert (12,678) and Ben Roethlisberger (11,075).

Week 8: Toledo 21, Miami 17

The Rockets snapped the RedHawks’ six-game winning streak.

Gabbert, the fifth-year junior quarterback, suffered a season-ending fractured leg in the third quarter.

Miami (6-2, 3-1 MAC) held Toledo scoreless in the second half but was unable to complete the comeback attempt after trailing 21-3 at halftime.

Week 9: Miami 30, Ohio 16

Miami (7-2, 4-1 MAC) scored 30 unanswered to claim the annual Battle of the Bricks and snapped Ohio’s 10-game home win streak.

Amos rushed for a career-high 163 yards and a touchdown, while the RedHawk defense held the Bobcats to 50 yards rushing on 26 attempts. Aveon Smith, filling in for the injured Gabbert, threw for 103 yards and TD and added a rushing score.

Matt Salopek finished with 14 tackles, the fifth time this season he reached double-digit tackles in a game.

Week 10: Miami 19, Akron 0

Amos rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns for the RedHawks (8-2, 5-1 MAC), who remained in first place in the MAC East.

Miami recorded its second shutout of the season, marking the first time since 1998 that the RedHawks have shut out multiple opponents in the same year.

Miami allowed just 36 rushing yards — the lowest opponent total since a 2020 win over Akron.

Week 11: Miami 23, Buffalo 10

The RedHawks (9-2, 6-1 MAC) clinched the 2023 MAC East championship.

Amos had 82 rushing yards and two touchdowns for Miami, which won its first division title since 2019 and earned Saturday’s rematch against Toledo.

Week 12: Miami 17, Ball State 15

Kobe Hilton blocked Ball State’s go-ahead field goal try with 1:04 left to play, and the RedHawks (10-2, 7-1 MAC) hung on to finish off their first 10-win regular season since 2003 and win their fourth-straight RedBird Rivalry game.

Smith completed 14 of 24 passes for a season-high 170 yards and a touchdown.


Miami vs. Toledo, Noon, ESPN, 980, 1450

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