Gabbert injury ends Miami comeback bid
Toledo hands RedHawks first MAC loss
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH - Quarterback DeQuan Finn tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another -- all in the first half -- as Toledo (7--1, 4-0 MAC) edged Miami (6-2, 3-1 MAC) 21-17 Saturday at Yager Stadium.
It was the first conference loss for MU, which also lost quarterback Brett Gabbert to a serious injury late in the third quarter. Although the RedHawks scored one play later to close within four points, Rashad Amos' touchdown was the end of a 14-point third quarter rally. With Gabbert out, Miami gained a total of 44 yards over four fourth quarter possessions that ended punt, punt, punt, fumble.
"The defense continued to get stops, (but) we didn't get it done on offense," Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin said of MU's work after Gabbert went down.
Although Toledo failed to get on the scoreboard after intermission, it did enough in the first two quarters to post its seventh straight win and . . .
. . . remain undefeated in MAC play. Finn was the architect, repeatedly picking up crucial first downs/scores with his arm or legs.
After punting to close its first drive, Toledo scored touchdowns on three straight drives. Finn's 3-yard pass to Devin Maddox at 3:51 of the first period opened scoring. After Miami hit a 20-yard Graham Nicholson field goal, UT came back with a 16-play, 75-yard TD drive. Finn finished on fourth down with a 1-yard run.
Following a Miami punt, the Rockets came back for a final score. Aided by two RedHawks penalties, UT moved 84 yards in just 1:47. Finn found tight end Anthony Torres from 20-yards out to complete the trip. The touchdown, with just 33 seconds left, gave Toledo a 21-3 halftime lead.
Finn completed 7 of 10 passes totaling 84 yards with a TD in the second period. He also ran six times for a net of 19 yards and a score. Toledo converted 2 of 4 third downs and 2 of 2 fourth down tries in the second quarter.
Our "defense gave up three touchdowns in four possessions in the first half," Martin said. "They really didn't play badly; they just couldn't get off the field. Finn made some plays (and) we were just back on our heels a little bit -- not as aggressive as we need to be."
Martin noted that while MU didn't really change its "calls" on defense after intermission, the players did tighten coverages and turn up the aggression. That helped Miami shutout Toledo in the second half.
Offensively, Martin said, improvement necessitated better execution -- particularly on third down.
"We had chances to move the ball," he said "We couldn't catch a ball . . . (On) their third downs, they made plays. (On) our third downs, we didn't."
Momentum changed early in the third period. After a short UT punt and 14-yard return by Cade McDonald, Miami turned its first possession of the second half into seven points. Kenny Tracy completed the 38-yard drive with a 2-yard run.
The Rockets ended MU's next possession with an interception, but Miami's defense forced the second of seven Rocket punts after intermission.
Gabbert got the next RedHawk drive rolling with a 43-yard pass completion to Kevin Davis. He kept it moving with completions to Gage Larvadain (18 yards) and Javon Tracy (8 yards). It was second-and-goal at the two when Gabbert ran into the left side of the line and sustained his injury.
"We knew it was a tough injury (and) I was heartbroken," Martin said. "Sometimes life sucks, and today that really sucked."
When play finally resumed, Rashad Amos scored on a run up the middle. It closed the gap to 21-14, but neither team scored after that.
Finn completed 16 of 28 on the day, good for 160 yards with two TDs. Anthony Torres and Jerjuan Newton combined for seven catches, 79 yards and a score. Peny Boone led Rocket rushers with 17 carries totaling 73 yards. Jacquez Stewart added 12 carries for 60 yards.
Gabbert completed 14 of 29 passes totaling 179 yards with one interception. Aveon Smith connected on 3 of 7 for 23 yards in relief. Larvadain topped RedHawk receivers with seven catches, good for 85 yards. Rashad Amos led MU rushing with 10 carries totaling 55 yards.
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.