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Wasted opportunities hurt Miami in loss to Western Michigan

After LeVante Bellamy broke off a long, late-game touchdown to cement Western Michigan’s win, Miami head coach Chuck Martin was not happy. 

He and his team saw a Broncos’ false start penalty that wasn’t called, and he let a referee hear about it. He wanted the score called back for a redo. 

In a day full of missed opportunities, the RedHawks would like the whole game called back for a redo.

They fell, 38-16, to Western Michigan (4-3, 2-1 Mid-American) Saturday afternoon at Waldo Stadium.

Down only 21-16 with 11 and a half minutes left, Miami (2-4, 1-1 MAC) had momentum. The RedHawks had scored their first touchdown of the game on their last possession and then followed it by forcing a Broncos’ punt.

Miami received the ball at its own 26-yard line and advanced it to its own 44 on the first two plays of the drive. On the next snap, freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert was sacked for a loss of one and injured on the play. He missed only two plays before re-entering, but they were important ones. 

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jackson Williamson replaced him. He handed off to junior running back Jaylon Bester for five yards on the first play and threw a deep incompletion on the second, forcing a Miami punt. 

The RedHawks wouldn’t threaten the rest of the contest, while Western Michigan extended its lead with a field goal and two rushing scores by senior running back LeVante Bellamy.

When he was on the field, Gabbert spent more time scrambling around than looking for open receivers. For much of the game, his offensive line didn’t give him a pocket to throw from. He was sacked six times. Even without the sacks, he ran eight times for 38 yards.

Gabbert attempted 45 passes, connecting on 26 of them for 260 yards. He threw three interceptions, including a pick-six that put Western Michigan on the scoreboard in the second quarter.

Miami led 6-0 after two first-quarter field goals by senior kicker Sam Sloman. Kicking into the wind, Sloman drilled a 51-yarder and followed it from 49 yards out on his team’s first two drives.

On the RedHawks’ next possession, they drove more than 60 yards to the WMU 20. They gain eight yards on their next four plays, as the drive stalled on fourth down at the 12.

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The Broncos took over but went three-and-out, positioning Miami near midfield.

Gabbert marched the offense down the field again, reaching the red zone. That’s as far as the RedHawks went, as WMU senior linebacker Drake Spears picked off Gabbert and ran 74 yards to the opposite end zone.

Miami wouldn’t hold another lead. The Broncos played add-on with two passing touchdowns of more than 35 yards to close the half with a 21-6 lead.

During Western Michigan’s dominant stretch, the RedHawk offense punted twice, and Sloman missed a 47-yard field goal. 

The only score by either team in the third quarter was a 27-yard kick by Sloman, cutting Miami’s deficit to 21-9. 

Bester recorded his team’s only offensive touchdown on a 3-yard rush on the fourth play of the fourth quarter, pulling the RedHawks within five. 

That’s the closest they got, as Western Michigan ended the contest with a 17-0 run.

Besides the two long, second-quarter touchdown passes by senior quarterback Jon Wassink, Miami’s defense played soundly against the Broncos until Bellamy’s fourth-quarter scores. He finished with 135 yards but would’ve had 71 without those two plays. Wassink passed for 137 yards.

Bester led Miami’s ground attack with 45 yards on 11 carries. As a team, the RedHawks averaged 3.1 yards per tote.

They return to Oxford next Saturday to host Northern Illinois at Yager Stadium. The matchup is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN+.