RedHawks pay heavy price for Kentucky experience
Offense hard hit by injuries
By MIKE SMITH
As Miami football prepares for its only home game of the non-conference schedule, it will spend this week dealing with the aftermath of last week's battle against No. 20 Kentucky.
Miami head coach Chuck Martin confirmed Monday that the RedHawks will be without the services of three offensive players. The most significant loss is junior quarterback Brett Gabbert, a keystone of this year's offense. He left Saturday's game . . .
. . . at 7:46 of the fourth quarter and is out for an unspecified amount of time. Asked about the injury, Martin said its "not good. He's probably going to be out for a while. We don't have a timetable on him."
Two other casualties of particular note on the offensive side are tight end Jack Coldiron and left tackle Sam Vaughn. Martin speculated the former would miss at least "a week or two." Vaughn, a redshirt sophomore from from Versailles, Kentucky (less than 15 miles from the Wildcats' Kroger Stadium), could be out for the season.
"We deal with this every year (when) we play the schedule we play," Martin said. "The pro is you make a lot of money. The negative is you have a lot of carnage. Unfortunately, this is as bad as it's ever been. ... People are out. People are going to have to step up. That's just the nature of the beast."
Gabbert's combination of talent and experience, along with other offensive weapons at his disposal, factored into the media's preseason pick of Miami atop the MAC East standings.
In the past, MU could turn to experienced backup A.J. Mayer, but he was one of over 4,000 Division I football players to enter the transfer portal during the 2021 academic year and left for Arkansas State.
Moving into the QB position this week is freshman Aveon Smith. "He's been here for a while," Martin said. He's "really athletic. He's smart. He can do a lot of different things within our offense -- running and throwing."
Martin held Gabbert out of the team's Fall Football Preview and used Smith extensively. At the time, he said Smith had made progress since the spring. However, none of the remaining quarterback have much in the way of game experience. Smith completed 2-of-4 passes while closing out Saturday's contest.
>> Martin noted the RedHawks were able to stand "toe-to-toe" with the No. 20-ranked Wildcats for much of the night. A Kentucky field goal as time expired gave the hosts a 13-10 lead at intermission. However, UK blitzed the visitors with two scores within 1:02 of the second half.
Barrion Brown's 100-yard kickoff stunned MU and two plays later Kentucky got the ball back on a Miami fumble. Two more plays resulted in a Wildcat touchdown. Suddenly, UK was up 27-10. "We only had one turnover on offense, but ... it pops up right into their hands," Martin said. "After that, it was back to being a pretty good battle for the rest of the half,"
>> Miami got 111 yards from its run game. Tyre Shelton led the way with seven carries for 50 yards. Nearly half of that came on his 22-yard touchdown run to cap the RedHawks opening drive.
Given the opportunity, Martin was happy to get his offense on the field first. "I knew there would be a lot of new faces, ... particularly on defense. For some of them, it was their first college game," Martin said. "The offense got us right into the game. (It) put together a really nice drive.
>> With the graduation of Jack Sorenson, former Penn State receiver Mac Hippenhammer figures as a key target. He was a key part of MU's early success and had four catches for 57 yards before intermission. Gabbert was 12-of-16 for 101 yards during that time.
>> Freshman Eli Blakey had a big play for the Miami defense. the 6-2, 204-pounder from Louisville intercepted a Kentucky pass at the goal line early in the second quarter. As a whole, the defense held up well while defending the run and also recorded four sacks.
>> Among other areas, Martin indicated the RedHawks will be tweaking special teams. In addition to the long kickoff return, Miami also had a punt partially blocked immediately after Blakey's interception. That led to a short field for UK, which kicked a 50-yard field goal on its next possession.
"We did some good things execution-wise, but not near consistent enough to win that game," Martin said.
>> Miami's opponent Saturday is Robert Morris, which lost to Dayton 22-20 last week. Martin said he is looking forward to the home date and a 6 p.m. kickoff time. "We don't get to play that many home games, ... so when we get a home game, we're very appreciative. I like the Saturday night games. ... (I hope) the timing works for a lot of people."
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.