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2023 MAC Football Week 2 Game Recap: Miami RedHawks 41, UMass Minutemen 28

Through rain, cold and bailing winds, the RedHawks persevere in a marathon matchup with UMass.

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

The Miami RedHawks (1-1) and UMass Minutemen (1-2) met in Amherst, Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon for what was slated to be a pleasant, if potentially wet, mid-day scrap between former conference mates.

Instead, it became one of the most bizarre, action-packed conflicts of the late evening window, as the initial 3:30 p.m. start time was pushed back to 5:30 p.m before another weather delay in the middle of the first quarter pushed the game back to a 9:45 p.m. resumption.

The first quarter started off with a bang, as Brett Gabbert connected with Gage Larvadain for a 26-yard passing touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage, set up by a prior connection between the two for 38 yards two plays earlier to give Miami the early 7-0 lead.

The defense would get a quick stop of their own, forcing a UMass three-and-out on the Minutemen’s first possession— but UMass would get the ball right back two plays later after Tyler Rudolph picked off a Brett Gabbert pass to give his team the ball at their own 36-yard line.

The Minutemen would then plod along the field over the next nine minutes, taking 16 plays to gain 62 yards. On fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, quarterback Carlos Davis turned around to give the ball to running back Kay’ron Adams after failing to get in on the prior two plays himself. Adams would find the same fate, as Jackson Kuwatch met him at the line of scrimmage to turn the ball over on downs.

The weather arrived thereafter, and both teams would evacuate to the locker room for the next several hours.

In a serious case of deja vu, Miami would once again break the game wide open just two plays after the game’s resumption, with another Gabbert-Larvadain connection, this time on a 99-yard screen play to go up 14-0 on the hosting Minutemen.

Miami’s penchant for flashy scores continued on the very next play from scrimmage, as Caulden Woollard sacked Carlos Davis for a 14-yard loss and the ball popped out, with Kobe Hilton covering it up in the endzone for a score to put Miami up 21-0 with 1:17 to go in the first quarter.

UMass would have a big play of their own on the ensuing Miami possession, with Dashaun Jerkins scoring a pick-six for a 53-yard return at the 11:25 mark of the second quarter to put the score at 21-7.

Miami responded on the next drive with (you guessed it) another Gabbert-Larvadain touchdown connection, this time on a 13-yard strike, to put the margin back to three scores at 28-7.

UMass would attempt a 55-yard field goal at the end of the first half would be well short of the upright and no good to end the half, but their march to competitiveness would start at the 10:20 mark of the third quarter, when Carlos Davis took advantage of a defensive breakdown to find Gregory Desrosiers for a 32-yard touchdown.

Davis would once again find paydirt down the middle of the field for a 50-yard scoring strike, this time to Mark Pope to cut the RedHawks’ gap to 28-21 with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter.

Graham Nicholson’s first field goal of the day would extend the lead to 31-21 in favor of Miami, but UMass responded immediately by converting a Billy Wooden sack fumble into a five-yard touchdown from Carlos Davis to George Johnson to pull the score back to 31-28.

That’s when perhaps the zaniest play of the night took place, as on first-and-10 from their own 30-yard line, Brett Gabbert once again unleashed a pass deep downfield in the direction of Gage Larvadain, who caught the ball at the UMass 21-yard line. Larvadain, off-balance, would get the ball punched out by UMass safety Michael Oppong to create a fumble— but RedHawks receiver Cade McDonald, who had been trailing the play, beat his man to recover the ball in the endzone, creating a one-yard recovery touchdown.

It wound up being the killshot for Miami, as UMass would have several chances to score but were stifled on three separate drives to end their scoring account.

Graham Nicholson’s insurance kick with just under four minutes remaining would create the final tally.

The Miami offense was the Gage Larvadain show, as the former Southeastern Louisiana Lion finished with 273 yards and three touchdowns on eight receptions. He was responsible for 273 of Brett Gabbert’s 302 passing yards. Gabbert officially scored four touchdowns and two interceptions, though one of the scores is on McDonald’s endzone recovery. Rashad Amos was also a break-out star on the ground, with 115 yards (0 lost) on 23 carries.

Defensively, Matt Salopek paced the RedHawks with 14 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a sack and a pass break-up. Michael Dowell came down with the game-sealing interception on UMass’ final possession, while Yahsyn McKee (six tackles, two pass break-ups) also highlighted in the backfield.

For UMass, spot starter Carlos Rogers finished 22-of-32 for 244 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. He played in the place of Taisun Phommachanh, who was injured in their game vs. Auburn. Brady Olson went 0-of-3 with an interception in relief of Rogers, who was injured late in the game.

George Johnson led the Minutemen with seven receptions for 50 yards, while Mark Pope led in yards (70) on four catches, with both players scoring once. Kay’Ron Adams led the runners with 57 net yards on 16 carries.

Gerrell Johnson led the team in tackles (nine), while Derrion Craig was a disruptive force, with four tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and a half-sack on the day. Jalon Ferrell and Billy Woolen each had a sack, while Dashaun Jerkins and Tyler Rudolph both notched picks.

Miami will partake in one of college football’s oldest rivalries next Saturday, traveling to the Queen City to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats. Kickoff is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

UMass will prep for another MAC team, with a game against Eastern Michigan next on the docket. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday.