Miami pitches shutout; RedHawks win fifth straight
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH - After surrendering just three points a week earlier, the Miami RedHawks defense improved on that Saturday as MU shut out Bowling Green 27-0 at Yager Stadium.
While registering MU's first shutout since 2007, the RedHawks (5-1, 2-0 MAC) held Bowling Green (2-4, 0-2 MAC) to 135 yards of total offense. A week earlier, BGSU generated 438 yards of offense and scored 38 straight points in a 38-27 upset win over Georgia Tech. The Falcons converted 10 of 17 third downs in that one. Against Miami, Bowling Green converted one of eight.
"They're better than we made them look (today)," MU Head Coach Chuck Martin said. "They've got (skilled) guys,"
Offensively, Miami produced 356 yards. Quarterback Brett . . .
. . . Gabbert completed 15 of 18 for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran nine times to contribute another 47 yards. Several of those carries helped sustain RedHawk drives.
"His value of running the football is insanely underrated. He has such a good feel in the pocket," Martin said. "His pocket presence -- you can't coach it. He got us some key first downs."
"I'm always going to take what they give me," said the junior quarterback, who is having quite a bounce back campaign after injury sacked most of his season.
Martin noted Bowling Green does a lot of different things on defense and "We didn't handle any of it last year," when the Falcons defeated MU 17-13. With the experienced Gabbert available this time, Martin and the staff put a full plate of counters at his disposal. "He had a big time game for our offense today," Martin said.
Miami's first drive took seventeen plays to yield points. Gabbert completed six passes along the way, but Rashad Amos culminated the march with a 1-yard plunge at 3:29 of the first quarter.
Between several long RedHawk drives and MU's dominating defensive performance, Miami ultimately owned 39:29 in possession time. The Falcons punted on three of four first half possessions, with the final drive lasting one play before intermission. Conversely, Miami punted just once on the whole day. That came in the first half.
A promising RedHawk possession early in the second period ended abruptly when Gabbert's 23-yard pass to Joe Wilkins Jr. came loose. Darrien Anders recovered for the visitors. However, the Falcons managed only one first down.
"It was frustrating (with) that fumble, (because) we really could have pounced on them. We had the momentum going."
Although dominating play, Miami clung to a 7-0 lead as halftime approached. With 4:45 remaining, MU began a final drive.
Two plays into that possession, BGSU appeared to pick off a deep pass. However, officials flagged the Falcons for roughing the passer. Given new life, Miami's drive continued, eventually covering 82 yards in 10 plays. Gabbert completed five of six along the way, including a 2-yard toss to Nate Muersch for the TD with 52 seconds left.
"Nate Muersch really had a great offseason . . . and he can really run and catch," Martin said.
Miami's final touchdown came on a 72-yard drive late in the third period. Eight plays in, MU had reached the Falcon 39. Gabbert dropped back to pass again and quickly found running back Kenny Tracy standing by himself in the center of the field. After receiving a quick toss, he ran untouched to the end zone.
"They were going to run pressure," Gabbert said. "No one took the back ... No one took the back, and I just dumped it to him."
Tracy led Miami rushing with 11 carries for 58 yards and added three catches totaling 52 yards with the TD. Wilkins topped MU receivers with six catches totaling 70 yards.
When Graham Nicholson hit a career-best 52-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the third period, Miami owned a 24-0 advantage. As it did the previous week, MU turned to a grinding, clock-consuming offense. That gave it two more possessions, and Nicholson added a 30-yard field goal on one of them to close out scoring with 3:21 remaining.
-- Connor Bazelak handled most of the Falcon quarterback duties, eventually completing eight of 17 passes totaling 64 yards with one interception. Camden Orth hit three of six throws for a total of eight yards.
-- Terion Stewart led BGSU rushing with eight carries for 63 yards (7.9 ypc). After deducting for losses, his 63 yards accounted for all of the Falcons net rushing yards (63).
-- Miami registered four sacks and five TFL.
-- Former Indiana linebacker Ty Wise, who recorded his first career interception for MU Saturday, credited much of Miami's 2023 defensive success to "great preparation. In the four years I've been in college football, I've never seen a defense demand excellence (as) much as we do. Everybody is on the same page."
-- Nicholson remained perfect on the season. He has now hit 11 straight field goals to start the year, and is also perfect on PATs.
-- Miami standout WR Gage Larvadain did not play again this week. "I think we can get him back next week, but we'll see," Martin said. "That's our best football player."
-- Miami's offensive numbers against BGSU were far from gaudy, but Martin was pleased with year-to-year improvement against a complex and physical Falcon defense.
"They do a lot of stuff," he said. "We couldn't protect our quarterback last year. We couldn't block last year. . . . Our offense has a ways to go. We're still not physical enough on that side of the ball, but (today) was a step in the right direction."
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.