On Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday, the Miami University RedHawks and the UMass Minutemen met at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst, Massachusetts, for a week two matchup.
Behind a career night from junior receiver Gage Larvadain and a strong rush defense, and despite two interceptions and a lost fumble, the RedHawks left Massachusetts with a 41-28 victory in hand.
“We played really good football to win by 13 points with three turnovers,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “You have to dominate the game to do that. We did dominate the football game.”
The game, which was supposed to kick off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, didn’t end until nearly 12:30 a.m. on Sunday due to more than five hours of weather delays. Storms delayed kickoff until 5:38 p.m. On the RedHawks’ first drive of the game, Larvadain made an acrobatic catch for a touchdown on the right side of the field.
Then after nearly a quarter of football, severe weather struck again shortly after 6 p.m., and the game went back into a delay until 9:45 p.m. After that, it finished uninterrupted, despite heavy rain at times.
“I really felt like I was sweating more at UMass than I was at Miami to be honest with you,” Martin said. “And my biggest concern is, UMass every break is going into their air conditioned football building … and we’re going into this ridiculously small locker room.”
During the delays, Miami fired up its buses for the players because the visitors’ locker room didn’t have air conditioning.
The greasy food from UMass concession stands and lack of AC didn’t hamper the RedHawks because when the game resumed at 9:45, they scored two touchdowns in two plays from scrimmage.
Starting at the 1-yard-line after a goal line stand just before the second delay, redshirt-junior quarterback Brett Gabbert dropped back and found Larvadain streaking across the field for what ended up a 99-yard touchdown.
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Then, on the first play of the ensuing UMass drive, junior defensive lineman Caiden Woullard forced a fumble and the RedHawks fell on it in the end zone. Two touchdowns in 23 seconds of gameplay.
“After the second delay, our kids were dying to play,” Martin said. “... There would’ve been a mutiny if we had tried to cancel that game … we’ll play in the morning, we’ll play in the middle of the night, we’ll play whenever the weather breaks, we’ll play.”
Early in the second quarter, a Gabbert pass to Larvadain bounced off of Larvadain’s hands and into the air before dropping into the arms of UMass’s Dashaun Jerkins, who ran it 53 yards back for a pick six. The extra point made the score 21-7.
Before the quarter ended, Gabbert found Larvadain on a 13-yard slant route for both players’ third touchdown of the day.
After the half, UMass scored two consecutive touchdowns to bring the score to within one possession. The second was a 50-yard bomb from UMass’s Carlos Davis to Mark Pope, after the RedHawks had backed the Minutemen up to third-and-20. A blown coverage by the RedHawk defense allowed UMass out from against the wall.
“A negative defensively, we got it thrown over our heads twice,” Martin said. “Can’t happen.”
Before the third quarter was over, junior placekicker Graham Nicholson pinned a 33-yard field goal to re-extend the RedHawk lead to double digits, 31-21 RedHawks.
After a UMass three and out on their next drive, Miami took back over at their own 12-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Gabbert was sacked for 14 yards and fumbled. UMass fell on the football at the Miami two yard line and scored two plays later, making it 31-28.
“That’s how the game got close,” Martin said. “We throw a pick-six and then fumble on our one, all of a sudden what should be 31-14 is 31-28.”
Larvadain finished the game with 7 catches for 273 yards and three touchdowns. If he had somehow taken that ball into the end zone, he would have broken the RedHawk record for receiving yards in a game, 283, set by Jack Sorensen against Ohio in 2021.
Miami eventually kicked another field goal to extend its lead to 41-28 before the game ended early Sunday morning.
Miami leaned on 6-foot-2, 234-pound running back Rashad Amos on Saturday. The redshirt sophomore transfer from South Carolina took all but seven handoffs against UMass. Usually, Martin’s teams go running back by committee, but it appears that Amos could be their bellcow this year.
Martin did say that Kenny Tracy was injured and didn’t dress, so it remains to be seen what the split of carries will be.
The RedHawk defense played stout, allowing just 62 rushing yards (2.1 yards per carry) after finishing best in the Mid-American Conference for rush yards allowed per game in 2022. Miami intercepted the Minutemen once and forced three fumbles, recovering one.
The RedHawks hit the field next on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the University of Cincinnati (UC). The Battle for the Victory Bell game is the oldest current non-conference rivalry game in college football, with the first meeting dating back to 1888. Currently, UC leads the all time series 60-59-7.
“We haven't beaten them in 17 years,” redshirt junior linebacker Matt Salopek said. “It’s the type of game that as a player and as a team helps you leave a legacy here at Miami … to go out there and beat UC would be a great thing for this program.