On Friday, Sept. 1, the Miami RedHawks had the chance to shock the world, to change a thousand narratives and maybe to even remove that infuriating “OH” that always accompanies our school’s name on all things sports-related.
The RedHawks talked a good game leading up to the opener — Brett Gabbert’s quote was overblown, but in hindsight it still sounds really bad — but the lights at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, proved to be too bright. The RedHawks struggled in all facets of the game and left South Florida wearing a 38-3 thumping from the Miami Hurricanes.
“It was a long, frustrating night,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “We always talk about self-awareness. I mean, they could tackle us. At times we couldn’t tackle them.”
The RedHawks won the game’s opening toss and chose to defer to the second half.
Junior kicker Graham Nicholson kicked to the Hurricanes, who returned it to their own 45-yard-line. After two positive rushes, Hurricane quarterback Tyler Van Dyke found Colbie Young on a screen left, and Young took it 44 yards to the house.
The RedHawks went three-and-out on their first drive, which ended with a Gabbert sack and a punt. The Hurricanes drove down the field after the punt but the RedHawks didn’t break, holding the home team to a field goal to make the score 10-0 Hurricanes.
The teams traded three-and-outs after that. The RedHawks got a first down on their next drive, but stalled after that. Junior punter Alec Bevelhimer pinned the Hurricanes at their own three with a beautiful punt, but a late hit by the RedHawks cost them 15 yards.
It wouldn’t matter. Redshirt-senior defensive back Michael Dowell read Van Dyke’s eyes and jumped a pass on the left side of the field. The RedHawks couldn’t capitalize though. They got it to third and two but the Hurricanes fired through the Miami line on third down for a nine yard sack, forcing another RedHawk punt.
The Hurricanes drove right down the field on their next drive but the RedHawks buckled down when the ball got to the red zone. They held the Hurricanes to a 32-yard field goal, making the score 13-0 in their favor.
The teams traded field goals to end the first half. On the RedHawks’ end, redshirt-junior quarterback and transfer junior receiver Gage Larvadain got their connection working, to the tune of three completions for 43 yards. Junior kicker Graham Nicholson nailed a 48-yard field goal from Graham Nicholson. The kick would've been good from at least 55.
Next, the Hurricanes went 50 yards on four plays in 56 seconds. The RedHawks gave up a chunk play on the third play (and third first down play) of the drive, got bailed out by a Hurricane holding, then gave up a longer chunk play. The Hurricanes pinned a 43-yarder to send the contest to halftime 16-3 Hurricanes.
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From there, it all fell apart for the RedHawks. The offense got five first downs in the second half and didn’t enter the red zone until there was just over a minute left in the game.
“When you can’t run the ball at all and you throw the ball just OK, you’re in for a long night,” Martin said.
What to make of it
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Aveon Smith came in for the final drive. The hero from last year’s RedHawk win over Northwestern electrified the Miami faithful with a gorgeous 37-yard completion and another long one that was called “no catch” because the RedHawk receiver’s knee landed out of bounds before his toe touched grass in bounds (or so the referees said.)
There weren’t many bright spots for the RedHawks on Friday, but aside from Smith, transfer receiver Gage Larvadain showed out. Larvadain came to Miami this offseason from Southeastern Louisiana University (FCS). He was All-Southland Conference at both wide receiver and kick returner both years he was there, and in 2021 he was Southland Conference Freshman of the Year.
Yesterday, Larvadain was one of the only RedHawks able to create any separation from the Hurricanes’ defense. Of Miami’s 13 completed passes on the night, Larvadain caught eight of them for 80 yards. When he had the ball in his hands, the Hurricanes had trouble bringing him down.
This wasn’t enough to help the already struggling RedHawks, though.
“In the second half, [Miami’s defense was] tired.” Martin said. “That’s not their fault … we got to move the ball on offense. When you have three first downs and  yards in the half, your defense stays on the field. That’s the story of the game. Our defense got worn down.”
They were destined to lose. Anyone would have told you the RedHawks were physically outmatched by the Hurricanes.
“They can pressure our quarterback and we can’t pressure theirs,” Martin said.
Anyone would have told you that it would have taken mistake-free football and half a dozen lucky breaks for the RedHawks to escape south Florida victorious. Going into the game, Vegas favored the Hurricanes by 16.5 points. The RedHawks lost by 35 points.
The RedHawks return to the Field on Saturday, September 9, at 3:30. Miami travels to play the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Anyone would tell you the Minutemen have been one of the most consistently poor programs in the country of late, having won just three games in the previous four seasons. In Week One though, they beat New Mexico State (which has had two winning seasons this millennium) on the road, 41-30.