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On Saturday, Miami University football lost its first Mid-American Conference (MAC) game of 2023, 21-17 against the University of Toledo. 

The RedHawks went into halftime losing 21-3. They stopped the Rockets on their first drive of the second half and then scored a touchdown. Late in the third quarter, Miami was about to score another touchdown to make it a one score game, when a Toledo offensive lineman fell on junior starting quarterback Brett Gabbert’s leg. Gabbert left the field in an ambulance.

Photo by Jessica Monahan | The Miami Student

When Gabbert suffered a season ending injury Week 8 against Toledo, he had completed 111-of-187 passes (59.4%) so far on the season for 1,634 yards and 14 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. He had also recorded 140 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.

On Monday, Miami football head coach Chuck Martin confirmed that Gabbert had a “successful” surgery, but he’d be out for the rest of the season. It’ll be redshirt-sophomore Aveon Smith under center for the foreseeable future for Miami.

The play after Gabbert went down, Smith handed off to redshirt-sophomore running back Rashad Amos who punched it into the end zone to make the score 21-17. Miami got four more drives after that. Toledo didn’t score again. Miami couldn’t convert on any of its ensuing chances.

On Monday, junior kicker Graham Nicholson and Martin were available for the media for Miami’s usual mid-week presser. Here are three takeaways:

Gabbert done for the season

Brett Gabbert had surgery on Saturday night, which included a rod being inserted into his right leg. On Monday, Martin confirmed that Gabbert will be out for the rest of the season.

"Surgery did go well," Martin said. " ... According to [Miami director of sports medicine] Dr. [Stephen] Dailey ... seeing the post-op stuff, he feels like a really, really really good outcome so far.”

Martin and Nicholson talked about the impact Gabbert has on their locker room. According to Martin, a few guys, especially the offensive guys who were right there when Gabbert got injured, were pretty broken up on the sideline after the game. Martin has visited Gabbert at the hospital, as have the offensive linemen and many other teammates.

“I saw him last night,” Martin said. “First thing he asks is, ‘How are the guys?’ … Because he knows he’s the battery … He’s thinking, ‘They better not be pouting over me.’”

RedHawks’ updated quarterback situation

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Gabbert only played four games last season due to clavicle and ankle injuries. Smith relieved him then too, making nine starts and going 5-4 as a starter. 

Smith helped Miami to a win over Northwestern University, Miami’s first Big Ten win since 2003. He led a shocking last-second comeback win over Ball State in the last game of the season to seal bowl eligibility and nearly led Miami to a win in the Bahamas Bowl against Alabama-Birmingham.

“Obviously he’s got some experience from last year, which is huge, compared to when he had to do it a year ago,” Martin said.

Last year, Smith compiled 1299 yards through the air with a completion percentage below 50%. He threw for 11 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. He added 553 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and six touchdowns on the ground. 

“He’s an improved thrower by a wide margin,” Martin said. “Now he’s gonna have the chance to go out in a game and show everybody if he’s an improved thrower or not. So it’s a great opportunity for him.”

Aveon can be dangerous running the football. If he truly is an improved thrower, it’s possible Miami’s offense won't be too much worse off than it was with Gabbert. According to Martin, the RedHawk playbook will mostly stay the same.

“Everybody is really going to be able to get behind AV [Smith],” Nicholson said. “We all believe in him … He is definitely good enough to get the job done, and I know everybody believes that.” 

Redshirt-sophomore Henry Hesson is now listed as the backup quarterback on the RedHawk depth chart. Hesson has thrown five passes in his college career.

Nicholson is confident

Graham Nicholson is perfect this year.

On the season, Nicholson has nailed all 14 field goals he’s attempted and 25-of-25 extra points. Only Alabama’s Will Reichard has hit more field goals without missing this season (15). Associated Press and Sporting News both named him a midseason All-American.

On Monday, Nicholson was asked what he thought his maximum range was, in perfect conditions with a slight breeze at his back.

“I would tell you that there’s no reason I can’t hit from 70,” Nicholson said. “But Coach Martin probably wouldn’t send me out there. A more realistic number is probably around 60.”

Nicholson was good last season, hitting 18-of-23 field goals and 26-of-27 extra points. This year he has been automatic, a weapon any coach in Division I would love to have at his disposal.

The RedHawks take the field next for a must-win game at Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 3:30 p.m. If Miami wins, it's in the driver's seat to make the MAC Championship on Dec. 2, in Detroit. If the RedHawks lose, they’ll need Ohio to lose two of its last three games and maybe more to get in.