OXFORD -- Miami earned a fair amount of money by opening its football season before a crowd of 61,139 at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Stadium on Saturday, but the trip still proved to be costly.
The RedHawks lost three key members of their offense to injury while trying to keep up with the stronger, faster, 20th-ranked Wildcats during a 37-13 non-conference loss.
Perhaps the most glaring loss was that of 6-foot, 205-pound junior quarterback Brett Gabbert with an injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder late in the game. Also sidelined were two redshirt sophomores: 6-7, 292-pound left tackle Sam Vaughan and 6-5, 239-pound tight end Jack Coldiron.
“The money’s good, but it’s not good,” ninth-year coach Chuck Martin said during Miami’s weekly media session on Monday. “We do this every year. We’ve gone through this every year. You make a lot of money, but there’s a lot of carnage. It’s an uphill battle from the beginning. It’s like this every year. It did not turn out well.
“We play these money games. You love the excitement, but it’s not good.”
Miami was paid $1.4 million to open the season at Kentucky, according to a USA Today analysis of college football guarantee games.
Coldiron still is listed as the starter on the depth chart for this week’s non-conference home opener against Football Championship Subdivision Robert Morris, but redshirt freshmen
WIll Jados and Aveon Smith are expected to start at left tackle and quarterback, respectively. Smith has appeared in four games over the past two seasons.
“He’s really athletic and smart,” Martin said about Smith. “You always feel bad about players who get injured, but you feel good about players getting opportunities.”
After the home opener against a Colonials team that lost its opener at home to Dayton, 22-20,, the RedHawks will play non-conference arch-rival Cincinnati at the Paycor Stadium, formerly Paul Brown Stadium, on Sept. 17 and travel to Northwestern on Sept. 24. Miami opens its Mid-American Conference season at Buffalo on Oct. 1.
Besides the injuries, Martin was mostly pleased with Miami’s game against the Wildcats – at least, with 59 of the 60 minutes. The RedHawks took a 7-0 lead and trailed, 13-10, at halftime, but Barion Brown returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and Kentucky capitalized on a Miami turnover deep in RedHawks territory on the ensuing possession to score another touchdown for a 27-10 lead.
A defense populated by new faces limited the Wildcats to 50 yards rushing on 26 carries, an average of 1.9 yards per carry. Seventh-year linebacker Ryan McWood led Miami with 11 tackles, while redshirt freshman safety Eli Blakey had nine tackles and his first career interception and fourth-year linebacker Matt Salopek finished with seven tackles.
“We flew around and played hard against an SEC team,” Salopek said. “We made some errors, but they were self-made. We have a lot to improve on. We have a lot of new faces with freshmen and transfers. I think we’re going to get better each week.”
“I feel really good about the preparation the kids and the coaches had,” Martin said. “It was good to see how the kids react to a different venue. For a lot of guys, it was their first college game. We set the tone on offense. We learned that ‘We can play with these guys.’ The execution on both sides of the ball wasn’t great, but we felt good at halftime. It was a really good effort except for a minute in the second half.
“These kids aren’t going to back down from anything. Physically, they know they can compete with anybody. We were disappointed with that one minute, but we went toe-to-toe with a 10-win Kentucky team.”
Robert Morris at Miami, 6 p.m., ESPN3, 980, 1450
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