RedHawks fall to WMU despite Gabbert return
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Miami (3-5, 1-3 MAC) pulled a rabbit out of the hat, but Western Michigan (3-5, 2-2 MAC) pulled a win out of the battle Saturday as the Broncos held on for a 16-10 victory over MU at Yager Stadium.
The verdict broke Miami's 16-game home winning streak, which started after a WMU win back in 2018. That game -- a 40-39 verdict -- was also close, and Saturday's matchup came down to the final minute when the Broncos defense stopped the Miami's final drive at Western Michigan's 34 after four straight incompletions by Brett Gabbert.
The junior, who was injured at Kentucky in Week One, was a surprise starter against WMU. Previous indications were he could possibly miss the remainder of the season. While there may have been some "rust," particularly in the first half, the Broncos defense had plenty to do with making things difficult. Western Michigan registered seven sacks (3.5 by Corvin Moment) and brought intense pressure on a number of other plays. WMU also limited the RedHawks run game to a net of 83 yards.
"Offensively, for three quarters, (we did) nothing," Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin said. "We can't throw it versus zone. We can't throw it versus man. We can't run it versus anything."
Overall, Western Michigan surrendered just 305 yards and . . .
. . . one touchdown on the day. Likewise, MU -- though missing several starting players -- held the Broncos to 304 yards and a touchdown. A critical difference was on the scoreboard as Palmer Domschke hit three field goals (52, 45 and 37 yards). Miami's Graham Nicholson was good on his only field goal try -- a 23-yard effort that gave the RedHawks an early 3-0 lead.
All three Western Michigan field goals were aided by Miami miscues, and the Broncos took advantage of two RedHawk penalties for their second quarter scores. The first came on a WMU drive midway through the period. After picking up two first downs, the Broncos came up short on a third down play, but Miami was called for a horse collar tackle. Given new life, Western Michigan drove to the Miami 34 and tied the game with a 52-yard Domschke boot.
After an MU punt , the Broncos took over and went backward. Miami had earlier blocked a punt and again brought strong pressure. It missed the block, but not the punter. Western Michigan got the ball back and drove to the RedHawks 29. Domschke split the uprights as time expired and the visitors took a 6-3 edge into intermission.
Western Michigan's only touchdown of the afternoon came in the third stanza, when Sean Tyler capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 20-yard TD run. WMU then expanded its advantage one possession later when the Broncos capitalized on a Miami fumble. Five plays after the game's only turnover, Dormschke hit a third field goal to put Western Michigan up 16-3 with 4:24 left in the third stanza.
Miami tallied its only touchdown in fourth quarter. A pair of Gabbert runs and two passes to Jack Coldiron helped MU reach the Broncos red zone. Gabbert then finished the drive with a nine-yard scramble.
With 11:34 remaining, there was plenty of time for more scoring, but the defenses stiffened. There were five punts before Miami's final drive ended with a fourth down incompletion.
>> True freshman Treyson Bourguet got the start at quarterback for Western Michigan, doing enough to put WMU in a position to win. He completed 16 of 23 attempts for 123 yards against one of the MAC's better defenses. Jehlani Galloway led Bronco receivers with six catches for 51 yards, while Sean Tyler turned 22 rushes into 110 yards and WMU's only touchdown.
>> Western Michigan converted 10 of 21 third down chances and went 2 of 2 in the red zone. Miami converted 2 of three red zone opportunities but was just 2 of 13 on third down.
>> I think we will get better on offense, and I think we will score more points," Martin said. "But we're going to have to work really hard , and we're going to have to take some ownership -- players and coaches alike, and we've got to get better."
>> Even with his 41 yards in losses, Gabbert accounted for 246 of Miami's 305 total offense yards. He went 21 of 38 for 222 yards through the air and netted 24 yards rushing. Tyree Shelton carried nine times for a net of 41. Miles Marshall (seven catches, 94 yards) and Mac Hippenhammer (5 catches, 32 yards) led RedHawk receivers.
>> Martin said Gabbert had been on a strict rest prescription for his injury until two weeks ago, when he was allowed to start limited activities. During the past week, he was monitored for progress on increased activities and practice, which went well. That allowed clearance for game participation.
>> "It was great to be back out there (with) the teammates. That is the part I miss the most." Gabbert said. "Personally, I don't think I played very well We scored 10 offensive points. At the end of the day, that comes back to me. I've got to do better."
>> Asked about his quarterback possibly being somewhat rusty, Martin said, "Did he look as sharp (as usual)? No. (But) no one is going to look as sharp after seven weeks (out)." He added that passing game improvement will have to be a group effort. "We've got to protect better. We've got to throw better. We've got to run routes better."
>> DB John Saunders and DL Ty Wise were among a group of starters missing from the Miami defensive lineup Saturday. Martin praised their replacements, particularly noting the work of Nolan Richardson and Ja'Von Kimpson.
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.