Through two weeks of play, nothing had gone the way of Miami football. That trend held up this Saturday when the Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the RedHawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis by a score of 26-3.
A loss on the scoreboard was somewhat predictable — the bettors in Vegas liked the Gophers by nearly two touchdowns. Unforeseen was the physical toll Saturday’s blowout had on the still winless Miami RedHawks (0-3).
Most significantly, senior wide receiver James Gardner left the game early due to injury Saturday. According to Miami head coach Chuck Martin, his season is likely over.
“We got beat up pretty beat up pretty early Saturday,” Martin said. “James will most likely not play the rest of the year.”
Gardner was the team’s Most Valuable Player from 2017 after reeling in 47 passes for 927 yards and 11 touchdowns. Through three games, the Florida native has caught 12 receptions for 157 yards as a focal point of the RedHawk offense.
Now, Miami must adjust to life post-Gardner as they head into the Mid-American Conference schedule.
“Any time you lose a good player, it’s going to hurt you, but I don’t see our game plan totally changing,” Martin said. “You feel awful for guys who can’t play the sport they love, but on the other hand, there is someone standing there waiting.”
On top of Gardner, the RedHawk offense also saw injuries to starters including redshirt senior running back Kenny Young, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Tommy Doyle and redshirt junior tight end Nate Becker.
Whether it was as a result of their absence or staunch Minnesota defense, the stagnation of the Miami offense continued against the Gophers.
The ’Hawks failed to eclipse the 200 total yardage mark and, once again, struggled to run the ball, averaging only 2.9 yards per attempt. This performance is a familiar sight after Cincinnati kept Miami out of the end zone Week Two while only allowing 59 yards on the ground.
“There’s a frustration,” Redshirt junior running back Maurice Thomas said. “We just need to implement [the process] better.”
In the midst of a struggling offensive showing, transfer quarterback Alex Malzone saw his first action as a RedHawk Saturday since transferring from the University of Michigan. Despite his lackluster stat line of 0-for-3 for 0 yards passing on the day, the context of a struggling offense raised some questions to the safety of redshirt senior quarterback Gus Ragland’s starting spot.
“Alex did a great job,” Martin said. “Obviously, it’s not a great situation. We were just trying to get him some work and try to get his feet wet. Obviously, at some point and time this year, we’re going to need Alex.”
Moving forward, the RedHawks will travel to Bowling Green to start MAC play against the Falcons Saturday at 3 p.m. For Martin, his faith in his team remains unshaken.
“I’ve got a lot of trust and faith in this group,” Martin said. “I know a lot of people are going to not believe that we can have a good season or already believe the season’s lost, but I got a lot of faith.”