On Wednesday, Nov. 15, Miami University football has a chance to send itself to the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship game for the first time since 2019. The last time the RedHawks played in the big game, they beat Central Michigan University 26-21, with then first-year Brett Gabbert under center.
It's been a long time coming for the RedHawks. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shortened Miami’s season to three games.
In 2021, Miami lost three MAC games by a total of four points. In the last game of that regular season at Kent State University, Miami attempted a two-point conversion in overtime with the score 48-47 in favor of the Golden Flashes. A completion would have sent the RedHawks to the MAC Championship game, but instead, Gabbert’s pass sailed over the end zone.
In 2022, Gabbert sustained an ankle injury in the waning minutes of the season-opener against No. 20 University of Kentucky. He returned seven weeks later, but in his third game back, he sustained a season-ending clavicle injury on the last play of a three-score loss to Ohio University.
This year, Miami got off to its best start since 2003. In Week 8, the 7-1 RedHawks had the 7-1 University of Toledo Rockets, the MAC favorite, on the ropes in the third quarter when Gabbert sustained a season ending leg injury. He underwent surgery that night. Since then, Miami is 2-0 with its backup, redshirt-sophomore Aveon Smith, under center.
“In the last two weeks the plan wasn’t to throw the ball that little at all,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “Just the flow of the game.”
Now, Miami is one win away from returning to the MAC’s biggest stage in Detroit on Dec. 2. The RedHawks have two games remaining on their regular season schedule, Wednesday at home against the University at Buffalo and Nov. 25 at Ball State University. Either will do.
Miami opened as 8.5 point favorites over the Bulls, who have lost their last two games after opening the MAC slate 3-1.
The Bulls have the ninth-best offense in the MAC in conference play, scoring 18.5 points per game. The RedHawks sport the best defense in the MAC by more than a touchdown, allowing just 10.5 points per game.
Buffalo’s defense is ungenerous too, allowing just 17.3 points per game. The over/under for Wednesday’s game is set at a meager 39.5.
Miami’s offense has relied heavily on redshirt-sophomore bruiser back Rashad Amos since Gabbert went down. Amos has rushed for nearly 300 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and three touchdowns in those two games.
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“They’ve been really stingy on defense,” Martin said. “... They’re really good at disguising. Everybody’s gotta react to everything post snap.”
The Bulls trotted out two different quarterbacks last week at Ohio, Cole Snyder and CJ Ogbonna, who’s more of a runner.
“They’ve got two quarterbacks who are really capable of hurting you,” Martin said.
For the RedHawks, a loss in Wednesday’s game would not take them out of the driver’s seat to Detroit, especially with Ball State having a 3-7 overall record. But with how things have fallen for Miami football since their last MAC Championship, they’d be better off sealing their fate this week.