Miami will begin difficult stretch with road game at Ball State

Miami's Matthew Salopek and teammates tackle an Akron ball carrier during Saturday's game at Yager Stadium. Miami University Athletics photo

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Miami's Matthew Salopek and teammates tackle an Akron ball carrier during Saturday's game at Yager Stadium. Miami University Athletics photo

RedHawks tied for first in MAC East

OXFORD — Chuck Martin was happy that his Miami football team built enough of a lead Saturday against Akron he could send in the second team for most of the fourth quarter. He was almost as happy to see the backups get a bit of a comeuppance as the Zips scored two late touchdowns to forge a final score of 34-21.

“They were like, ‘Man, we can’t wait to get out there,’” Martin said Monday during Miami’s weekly media session. “’They (the Zips) aren’t very good.’ Well, they are very good. We just made them look not as good as they are.

“Those guys might not get a chance to play the rest of the year,” he added about the second-teamers, noting the difficulty of Miami’s remaining five games.

The stretch run starts Saturday when the RedHawks travel to Muncie, Ind., to meet Ball State in the Redbird Rivalry inter-division game. The Cardinals (4-3 overall and 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference West Division) are tied with Western Michigan and Central Michigan for second place behind 5-2 and 3-0 Northern Illinois.

After facing Ball State, the RedHawks will play their annual slate of mid-week MAC games with the renewal of the “Battle of the Bricks” rivalry against Ohio in Athens on Nov. 2, followed by home games Nov. 9 against Buffalo and Nov. 16 against Bowling Green. They close the regular season on November 27 at Kent State.

Miami’s win and Kent State’s 64-31 loss to Western Michigan allowed the RedHawks to move into a tie for first place in the MAC East with the Golden Flashes. Both teams are 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the MAC. Kent State plays Ohio (1-6, 1-2) on Saturday.

The win over Akron might have been one of Miami’s most complete performances.

“We had a lot of contributors,” Martin said. “In the postgame locker room, I really couldn’t think of who to highlight. All-around, it was a very good victory.”

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Sixth-year senior cornerback Cedric Boswell led Miami with eight tackles, seven of them unassisted, and forced a fumble late in the first half. Fourth-year sophomore quarterback A.J. Mayer turned in a solid performance, completing 19 of 27 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns and leading Miami to a 34-7 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Many fans might suspect Mayer’s performance might be a problem for Martin, who is anticipating the return from injury of third-year sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert, the 2019 MAC Freshman of the Year. Gabbert hoped to play against Akron or at least suit up and be the backup, but he instead watched from the sideline. He has missed the last 10 quarters, but he’ll start when he’s available, Martin said.

“We’ll see,” Martin said when asked if Gabbert might be ready Saturday. “Brett’s still the starter. He’s never done anything to not be the starter. He keeps preparing. He wanted to dress. He wanted to play, but he wasn’t physically ready.”

Mayer has completed 68 of 125 passes for 946 yards and six touchdowns and two interceptions. He has played in all seven games. In four appearances, Gabbert has completed 47 of 90 passes for 736 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions.

Martin was almost visibly savoring the luxury of having two accomplished quarterbacks at his disposal. It hasn’t always been that way during his time in Oxford.

“Before 2019, if we had to use our backup quarterback, we wouldn’t have much of a chance to win,” he recalled. “Mayer can make all the throws. He’s been coming for a long time. He’s getting a lot of experience this year. He’s still young. We have two really good quarterbacks. All the things you can’t coach, they have,”


Miami at Ball State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

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