RedHawks hold off WMU for sixth straight win
Homecoming showdown with talented Toledo next
By MIKE SMITH
KALAMAZOO, MI -- Brett Gabbert threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more as the Miami RedHawks (6-1, 3-0 MAC) overcame two turnovers to post a 34-21 win over Western Michigan Saturday at Waldo Stadium.
It was the sixth straight win for MU, which hasn't lost since Week one against the Miami Hurricanes. With Ohio's loss to Northern Illinois Saturday, the RedHawks move into sole possession of first place in the MAC East. Ohio and Miami meet in two weeks, but the RedHawks must now turn their attention to next Saturday's battle against MAC West-leading Toledo. With its loss, Western Michigan falls to 2-5 (1-2 MAC).
Both of Gabbert's passing TDs came in the first period, and both went to Gage Larvadain, who finally returned to action following an injury in in Week Three. The first was a 9-yard strike at 9:18. After a . . .
. . . 30-yard Palmer Domschke field goal at 3:39, Kevin Davis returned the following kickoff to the 47. A 42-yard pass to Cade McDonald put Miami at the Broncos 5-yard line and Gabbert hit Larvadain on the left side of the end zone two plays later.
The RedHawks next possession ended quickly a Gabbert was intercepted three plays into the drive. That set WMU up with a short field at the Miami 28. Three plays later, WMU faced fourth-and-one. Eschewing a field goal try, the decision paid off when Zahir Abdus-Salaam bounced off left tackle for a 19-yard TD.
Miami picked up two first downs on its next drive before again feeding the Broncos. Donald Willis fell on a RedHawk fumble and Western Michigan took over at the MU 33.
Miami's defense again forced fourth down, but this time with six yards to go. Western Michigan tried a 47-yard field goal, which was off the mark.
Having dodged points on the second turnover, Miami responded with a nine-play, 71-yard drive. Gabbert completed four passes along the way and finished the trip with a 4-yard run. With the PAT, MU took a 21-10 lead to intermission.
Domschke provide the third quarter's only score with a 49-yard field goal. The two teams then exchanged TDs early in the final stanza. Gabbert ran it in from nine yards out. WMU then answered with Hayden Wolff's 5-yard run at 10:59. His two-point conversion pass to Leroy Thomas pulled the hosts with seven at 28-21.
Wolff, who replaced Treyson Bourguet for the second half, seemed to energize the Broncos' aerial attack. Western Michigan had just 37 yards passing before intermssion. Wolff completed 13 of 20 for 99 yards in his time behind center. He also ran eight times for 23 yards with one TD.
A short Bronco punt gave Miami possession at midfield with 8:55 remaining and Gabbert quickly hit Javon Tracy for 27 yards. Althought MU could not get another first down, it was well within Nicholson's range and he nailed a 39-yarder with 6:00 left. That put the RedHawks up by 10 at 31-21.
Brian Ugwu's fourth down sack ended WMU's following drive at the Bronco 24. Four plays later, Nicholson connected on his final field goal -- this one from 40 yards. Nicholson, a junior, has hit all 13 of his field goal tries this season and is also perfect on PATs.
-- Miami slightly out-gained the Broncos 315-303.
-- Western Michigan rushed 42 times for a total of 167 yards (4.0 ypc). Jalen Buckley led the way with 14 carries for 61 yards, while Abdus-Salaam had seven trips totaling 43 yards with one TD. Buckley also registereed four catches for 47 yards, while Kenneth Womack and Leroy Thomas combined for nine catches and 60 yards.
-- Keni-H Lovely had an interception for WMU.
-- MU -- Larvadain returned after missing the past two weeks, finishing the game with five catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
-- Cade McDonald had a career-high six receptions for 78 yards and had a career-long 42 yard catch as well.
-- With 223 passing on Saturday, Gabbert moved past 7,500 passing yards in his career and ranks third in program history.
Gabbert (8,179) became the third player in Miami history to surpass 8,000 total yards, behind just Zac Dysert (12,678) and Ben Roethlisberger (11,075).
-- Matt Salopek had a game-high 14 tackles and has 73 stops on the season
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.