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Miami defeats Miami 38-3 in battle of Miamis

Backed by a relentless defense, the Hurricanes prove to be the superior Miami in “The Confusion Bowl.”

NCAA Football: Miami (OH) at Miami Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to establish a rivalry between two programs from separate conferences which only collided three times before on the gridiron, especially when the most recent meeting transpired in 1987.

But two otherwise-unrelated programs launched somewhat of a rivalry this week simply based on one common identity: their name. The Miami (OH) RedHawks were the original Miami, but the Miami (FL) Hurricanes entered Friday night with a 3-0 all-time record against the Ohio-based university. Miami was going to win regardless in the game dubbed as “The Confusion Bowl.”

Last Sunday, Miami (OH) quarterback Brett Gabbert was asked, “The real Miami’s where, Coral Gables or Oxford, OH?” to which Gabbert responded, “Oxford, OH — I think we’ll show them September 1.” But in the battle between Miami and Miami to determine the superior Miami for the 2023 season, the Hurricanes left no doubt in a 38-3 decision in Miami Gardens, FL.

“He wasn’t really doing too much, so it didn’t matter to me,” Hurricanes safety Kam Kinchens said in response to Gabbert’s comment.

Miami (FL) started its season in electrifying fashion under the lights at Hard Rock Stadium — the venue where the Hurricanes lost each of their previous five matchups. Brashard Smith fielded the opening kickoff 40 yards, and nearly had a house call if not for a hit stick-inducing tackle by RedHawks’ kicker Graham Nicholson. But even after temporarily saving a touchdown, Miami (OH)’s defense saw the Hurricanes in the end zone three plays later. Tyler Van Dyke delivered a screen to Colbie Young, who cut upfield for a 44-yard touchdown just 94 seconds into the contest, setting the tone for the remainder of the night.

NCAA Football: Miami (OH) at Miami
Miami (FL) WR Colbie Young scored a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage, taking a screen 44 yards to the house.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Hurricanes were pitted against the MAC’s top rushing defense from 2022 — a unit reloaded with nearly every starter. But Miami (FL) unleashed a committee of running backs on the RedHawks, and each one thrived tremendously. Henry Parrish Jr., Mark Fletcher, and Ajay Allen took nine handoffs apiece, and all three backs exceeded 5.0 yards per carry. Parrish and the true freshman Fletcher each contributed lengthy touchdown runs, combining for 166 yards in the landslide victory.

“All of those guys are tough, hard running backs,” Van Dyke said. “I trust each and everyone one of them. The competition in the room is very good. Each one has a different skillset to bring to the table, so I’m excited to see what those guys are gonna do.”

Miami (OH) entered halftime with -3 rushing yards, and although yardage from two sacks factored in, the running backs couldn't establish any production. Across the first two quarters, the RedHawks produced a total of four rushing yards on five attempts from the tailbacks, thus settling for an aerial-centric offense. The overall disparity between the run games was jarring, as Miami (FL) out-gained Miami (OH) 250-51 and the RedHawks averaged just 2.0 yards per carry.

The RedHawks fielded the No. 1 scoring defense and run defense in the MAC last year, but head coach Chuck Martin believes the unit was severely worn down by his offense’s inability to sustain possessions.

“Our defense definitely got worn down, credit to Miami,” Martin said. “They stayed on the field offensively. We didn’t stay on the field offensively. It’s not by accident. It’s not bad luck. We’ve got to move the ball offensively to get our guys good rest and not make them play so many dang plays on defense.”

Failure to establish the run was the determining factor in keeping the RedHawks entirely out of the end zone in the opener, and everything else spiraled from there. Three points marked the lowest scoring output by the program since 2018.

“We couldn’t run the ball at all,” Martin said. “We can’t run it, we’re one-dimensional, they’re pressuring and playing man, then we’ve got to win some one-on-one matchups and try to push the ball down the field. If they’re pressuring and playing man, we’ve got to soften them up by making the big plays, which we didn’t do.”

NCAA Football: Miami (OH) at Miami
Miami (OH) QB Brett Gabbert completed 12-of-12 passes for 127 yards in his first start since last November.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

After an injury-riddled 2022, quarterback Brett Gabbert returned to the field for the first time since last November. The experienced veteran finished the night 12-of-21 for 127 yards — finishing his sixth consecutive start without an interception. But first-year Miami (FL) defensive coordinator Lance Guidry dialed up numerous blitzes which the RedHawks offensive line was unable to fend off and the passing attack suffered as a result. The constant duress prevented the fifth-year quarterback from getting ample time to survey downfield, causing the majority of his completions to stem from screens.

However, Miami (OH) found something positive amidst the offensive struggle. The RedHawks desperately needed a new No. 1 receiver after the departure of Mac Hippenhammer, and they seemed to find one. Southeastern Louisiana transfer Gage Larvadain thrived as Gabbert’s favorite target, securing eight receptions for 80 yards — the most of any receiver in the contest. No other Miami (OH) receiver hauled in more than two receptions as Larvadain was nearly the team’s exclusive target.

“He obviously played excellent tonight,” Martin said. “He had a bunch of Miami (FL) coaches run up to him after the game. I don’t know if they’re his cousins or they’re just excited to talk to a guy who played pretty well tonight. But he’s a good player.”

The RedHawks never settled inside the Hurricanes’ 30-yard line until the final possession of the night. Prior to that last-ditch effort, only three drives pierced into opposing territory, and they resulted in a 48-yard field goal and a pair of failed fourth down conversions. Miami (FL)’s defense displayed potency in all position groups and denied explosive playmaking from kickoff to the final whistle. Third and long situations were prevalent, and the Hurricanes got their desired result almost every time, limiting the RedHawks to 2-of-12 in such situations.

At 0-1, Miami (OH) remains on the road for its next two contests, hoping to log a win at UMass before partaking in the annual crosstown rivalry with Cincinnati. But first, it’s back to the drawing board after a decisive defeat at the hands of another program by the name of Miami.

“We should have learned a lot of lessons,” Martin said. “We played a really good football team on the road, and when we watch the tape, if you’re self-aware, you’re gonna see this is where we or short or this is where we’ve got to keep working to improve.”