OXFORD — To say that Chevy Chase had better luck traveling in the National Lampoon “Vacation” movie series than the Miami football team has enjoyed this season is not a stretch.
The RedHawks, on their first trip, had to sit on a tarmac in West Palm Beach, Fla., for three hours because of Hurricane Idalia on the way to facing the Miami Hurricanes.
That was a walk in the park compared to their experience last weekend in New England, where they faced the Massachusetts Minutemen. The game was scheduled to begin at 3:32 p.m., but two weather delays added up to five hours and 35 minutes before Miami escaped with a 41-28 win. The game ended at 12:28 a.m. — on Sunday. The team got back around 6:30 a.m.
During the delays, the team ate what was supposed to be the post-game meal and had to order more food, coach Chuck Martin said Monday during the weekly media session. The RedHawks took off their uniforms and waited on their air-conditioned buses because the visitor’s locker room was stifling.
“I was hotter in Massachusetts than I was in Miami,” Martin said.
“It was tough,” redshirt-junior linebacker Matt Salopek said. “That was something I’d never dealt with before.”
Like the “Vacation” movies, the situation had a happy ending for Miami. The RedHawks were able to pull out the win, improving to 1-1 going into the annual “Victory Bell” game against the University of Cincinnati on Saturday at Nippert Stadium.
Redshirt junior quarterback Brett Gabbert threw for 302 yards. Junior wide receiver Gage Larvadain finished with eight catches for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore running back Rashad Amos gained 115 yards on 23 carries. And junior kicker Graham Nicholson connected on field goals of 44 and 33 yards and made all four of his extra-point attempts.
Lavardain, the transfer from Southeast Louisiana, might have had four touchdowns, but he fumbled on the UMass 5-yard line. Redshirt-junior wide receiver Cade McDonald fell on the ball in the end zone for his first career touchdown. Redshirt-junior defensive tackle Kobe Hilton also recovered a Minuteman fumble in the end zone after junior defensive end Caiden Woullard’s strip sack to give Miami a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
“That was a kick-starter for our momentum,” Salopek said. “Defensive touchdowns are huge momentum-boosters for the team.”
Gabbert got past a pick-six that bounced off the receiver’s helmet and got UMass on the board early in the second quarter, and the RedHawks survived a fumble on their own 1-yard line that led to a Minuteman touchdown, cutting Miami’s lead to 31-28 early in the fourth quarter.
“I told the kids the two biggest things they should be proud of,” Martin said. “First, how they handled it. The second thing they should be proud of was we were dominating. We made more plays, but we made it harder than it should have been.”
Lavardain recorded the second most receiving yard in a game in in Miami history. His 99-yard touchdown catch following a two-play defensive stand at the RedHawks’ 1-yard line is the longest pass play in program history. He was named Monday the Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. Nicholson was named the MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week.
Martin, in his 10th season as Miami’s coach, believes one reason the RedHawks were able to, ahem, weather the difficulties was their experience.
“I haven’t looked it up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve played more road games than anybody in the country,” he said. “I know we’ve played more road games than home games. We’re used to it. We like being on the road.”
Ironically, one of the rare seasons in which Miami was scheduled to play more home games than road games was 2020. Instead, the COVID-19 epidemic wiped out nine of the RedHawks’ 12 games, and two of the three played by the RedHawks were on the road.
Miami is scheduled to play seven road games and five home games this season, including Saturday’s grudge match against the Bearcats.
Miami at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450, 102.7