Throwing an interception on your first offensive play of a game is typically a bad omen.
Picking the ball back off and returning it for a touchdown only four plays later.
That’s exactly what Miami did, catching early fire and never easing up in a 44-3 win over Bowling Green Wednesday at Yager Stadium. The RedHawks never trailed in the contest and are now eligible to go to a bowl game.
“Obviously, a really good win anytime you win 44-3,” head coach Chuck Martin said. “It’s hard to win games. It’s hard to blow people out.”
With the Ohio Bobcats’ Tuesday loss, Miami (6-4, 5-1) now has to fend off only Buffalo for the Mid-American Conference East Division crown. The RedHawks hold a one-game lead and own the tiebreaker over the Bulls, who play Kent State Thursday night.
“[I’ll be rooting against Buffalo] with all my being,” Martin said. “That’s the first thing I said at halftime like, ‘Let’s go Flashes.’”
After his game-opening turnover, freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert continued to struggle through the first quarter. He was 1-of-6 for six yards.
That changed in the second.
Gabbert completed his last eight throws of the game for 219 yards and three touchdowns. His two passing scores in the second quarter both went for at least 35 yards.
“I wouldn’t say anything changed,” Gabbert said. “We kind of just finally woke up.”
Junior running back Jaylon Bester found the end zone twice on the ground and added 85 total yards.
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As Miami shorted the scoreboard on offense, the RedHawk defense kept Bowling Green (3-7, 2-4) from doing much of anything, aside from a 53-yard run by redshirt junior Bryson Denley that set up a field goal.
The game was already out of hand at halftime, as Miami led 37-3.
It got worse for the Falcons in the second half.
Up 44-3 after another Gabbert touchdown pass and the second interception of the game by senior defensive back Travion Banks, the RedHawks put in the backups.
They, too, stifled Bowling Green, keeping the Falcons out of the end zone and running the clock.
Without much drama, Miami claimed a 44-3 victory. It has won four straight.
“It’s just continuing to move forward, regardless of what happens, and focusing on ourselves, not on the other team,” redshirt junior defensive back Manny Rugamba said. “When we mess up ourselves, anyone can beat us … So as long as we continue to focus on ourselves, I think we’ll continue to roll.”
Miami stays home next Wednesday, when it takes on the winless Akron Zips. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN2/ESPNU. The RedHawks clinch their division with a win next week or a Buffalo loss Thursday.