Sometimes in life, it’s just not your day. It certainly wasn’t the Miami RedHawks’ day on Saturday as they suffered a 76-5 defeat at the hand of the #6 Ohio State Buckeyes. A lot of things came together for a perfect storm for the loss to be as lopsided as it was, and Miami will have to correct some things quickly with the home MAC opener against Buffalo rapidly approaching.
A pleasant surprise came in the first quarter as the ‘Hawks were able to move the ball on the ground with some regularity. Maurice Thomas was one of the few bright spots of the game as he rushed for 48 yards on eight carries. What was particularly interesting was the use of the speed option with Brett Gabbert and Thomas given how effective the play was, and we should expect variations of the play once MAC play starts. The physicality of OSU’s defense eventually won the day up front, but Miami had more success running the ball than anybody ever expected them to.
Miami needed Gabbert to manage the game effectively in order to keep the game under control, and that didn’t happen as he went 5-15 for 48 yards, an interception, and a lost fumble. This was the first game he looked like a true freshman as a number of balls either sailed on him or were off the mark, and that prevented the RedHawks from staying on the field on offense. Granted, the opponent may have forced many of those errant throws but Miami can’t afford to waste drives, especially against good teams. Gabbert had to leave the game with an undisclosed injury, so we’ll have to see how Miami approaches the passing game next week with either him or Jackson Williamson (who got rattled against OSU with four sacks).
Sieve, Sieve, Sieve
For the first drive, Miami was able to get some stops defensively as Myles Reid turned a strip-sack into a safety but missed tackles and blown coverages doomed the ‘Hawks for the rest of the game. OSU could’ve done whatever it wanted in the running game as it rushed for 227 yards, while it seemed like the Buckeyes were passing against air a lot of the time as QBs went 22-30 for 374 yards and seven touchdowns. Despite that, Miami was able to be disruptive with six TFLs, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and a pair of pass breakups. Going into MAC play, one would think that simplifying coverages would be on the table as DBs turning WRs loose has been a consistent problem for Miami in 2019.
Lose the Battle, Lose the War
When a team has an average starting field position of their opponent’s 39-yard line for a quarter, it’s going to score some points. That’s exactly what happened in the second quarter Saturday as everything that could go wrong for Miami did go wrong. Offensively, the ‘Hawks had two three-and-outs, an interception, and a blocked punt that set Ohio State up with prime real estate. On all but one drive, it took the Buckeyes five plays or less to score touchdowns. A game like this shows how important third downs and special teams are as Miami went 3-11 on third down in the first half and OSU had the advantage in the return game as well as punt coverage.
When a team gets thoroughly eviscerated on national television, it can cause a lot of restlessness among the fanbase and that is true for Miami. If the RedHawks aren’t able to beat a vulnerable-but-decent Buffalo team at home, 2019 has a chance to get really ugly in Oxford because Miami will have to win out just to have a chance to go bowling and their crossover games with NIU and WMU will be massive hurdles without a polished quarterback. The MAC East may not be particularly strong in 2019, but Miami has not done anything at this point to inspire confidence against those opponents. In order to keep everything from going sideways this season, the ‘Hawks have to find a way to win.