When the lights flicker on, the national TV cameras roll out, and midweek MACtion takes center stage, that means Brett Gabbert is ready to put on a show. The third-year starting quarterback has made a name for himself shining in midweek performances and Tuesday night in Oxford, OH was no exception. One week after posting a career-high 492 yards and five touchdowns, Gabbert followed it up with another clinic to remember.
The St. Louis native completed 21/28 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns as Miami (OH) flew past Buffalo, 45-18. When combining Gabbert’s two midweek performances this season, he has a stunning stat line of 843 passing yards and nine touchdowns. After comfortably disposing of Buffalo, the former MAC champion quarterback improves to 5-1 in midweek games when starting for the RedHawks.
Gabbert didn’t even need a warm-up throw to get in the groove. On Miami’s first play from scrimmage, head coach Chuck Martin unleashed the trickery. The RedHawks ran a flea-flicker which parted the sea downfield for wide receiver Jack Sorenson. Gabbert launched a deep ball for a 58-yard touchdown before the team even needed a second huddle.
Then, the quarterback bombarded Buffalo with three more touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Gabbert connected with Mac Hippenhammer in the corner of the end zone in the second quarter for a 17-7 advantage. In the third, he showcased his deep ball once again with a 39-yard air mail to Jalen Walker. Later in the frame, he switched it up and targeted his tight end, Andrew Homer, who secured his fifth touchdown reception of the season.
Gabbert’s impressive numbers translated to stellar performances from his loaded receiving corps. Sorenson, who entered the week fresh off a 283-yard explosion, extended his streak of 110+ yard receiving games to five. With 112 yards, he moves into third in the FBS in receiving yards and becomes the seventh player to cross the 1,000-yard barrier in 2021.
Hippenhammer added four receptions and 63 yards, but it was Walker who wound up leading the team in receiving yards for the night. Entering Tuesday, his previous season-highs were four receptions and 60 yards, but he shattered those marks with seven receptions totaling 136 yards. Walker’s emergence alongside Sorenson and Hippenhammer worked wonders for Miami as the team attained its season-high 45 points.
Miami entered the contest tallying eight takeaways on the season — ranking 11th worst in the FBS. But the turnover-starved RedHawks asserted themselves from the jump, forcing a fumble recovered by Sterling Weatherford on Buffalo’s opening possession. The RedHawks recovered two additional fumbles and John Saunders Jr. intercepted a pass from Kyle Vantrease as Miami won the turnover battle 4-1. Miami exchanged three of these turnovers in for touchdowns — and all three of these touchdowns transpired in fewer than six plays.
Buffalo’s disastrous turnover night prevented the offense from ever getting in a rhythm. The Bulls fought neck-and-neck with the RedHawks in the beginning when Dylan McDuffie raced 10 yards for the end zone to tie the score at 7 apiece. But they were held out of the end zone for the remainder of the half and never recorded a lead in a wire-to-wire defeat.
Vantrease returned to the lineup at quarterback after missing the second half of the Bowling Green game due to injury. Buffalo utilized a statement passing performance from Vantrease to hand Miami its lone loss of 2020, but those results weren’t exactly replicated in 2021. Vantrease completed 11/20 passes for 151 yards before Matt Myers checked in to finish the night as the signal caller.
On the ground, Buffalo’s 26th ranked rushing offense was limited to 119 yards on an average of 3.1 per carry. While McDuffie broke off for a handful of promising runs, Miami snapped the surging halfback’s streak of three 100-yard games. Buffalo’s backfield also returned McDuffie’s sidekick Kevin Marks, who averaged over 100 yards per game last year. In his first action since Oct. 9, Marks contributed 18 yards on five handoffs to rank second on the team in rushing production.
With six losses on the season, Buffalo is on the verge of facing its first losing record since 2016. The Bulls finish with a pair of MAC West opponents in midweek fashion — returning home to host Northern Illinois before concluding the season at Ball State.
Meanwhile, Miami controls its own destiny for its second MAC Championship Game appearance in three seasons. Gabbert and the RedHawks return to midweek MACtion against Bowling Green next Tuesday with their sights set on bowl eligibility. If Miami wins that contest, it likely sets up a winner-take-all matchup against MAC East frontrunner Kent State on Saturday, Nov. 27.