Not all football games are aesthetically pleasing, and Wednesday night’s battle between the Miami RedHawks and the Akron Zips was certainly not that as the ‘Hawks only mustered three points in the second half while the Zips allowed a school-record 12 sacks on the night. Miami was able to close the game out on the final drive, but we have some questions about the MAC East champions and the rebuilding Zips.
A Quick Pace
One of the breakout stars for Miami on Wednesday was undoubtedly Ivan Pace Jr., who was all over the field as he registered six sacks, a new school record. What’s even more impressive is that three of those sacks came on Akron final offensive series as it tried to score to stay in the game. However, there was a potentially ugly moment in the first half where Pace was deliberately twisting Kato Nelson’s leg away from the play. He has a bright future, but he needs to understand the difference between playing physical football and doing something that can hurt someone else as well as your team.
Getting Off the Ground
The ‘Hawks had a tremendous night running the ball with 238 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the inefficiency of the passing game kept an undermanned Akron squad in the game. Brett Gabbert struggled with his ball placement as he went 10-21 for 117 yards and two interceptions (the overthrow to James Maye in the first half is an example of this). Miami will have an opportunity to get its freshman quarterback right as it has a few extra days of work before taking on Ball State next Friday.
Kato Nelson Appreciation Week
The Zips have Kato Nelson and not much else on offense, and that was nearly enough to beat the MAC East champs on the road Wednesday. Nelson had moments of being effective against a stout Miami defense as he went 15-25 for 197 and a score to go with 54 rushing yards without including the sacks. Akron could have pulled it off if it was better than 2-11 on third down, but Nelson left it all on the field to help his team win and that has to be commended.
Lako on Fire
One of the things that probably caught Miami off guard was how well Akron’s defense played, particularly linebacker John Lako. Lako led all players with 14 tackles to go with a sack and a 64-yard pick-six to keep the Zips in the game. As a unit, the defense picked up eight stops on third down and broke up three passes, but Miami was able to have some success running the ball against a front that’s not as developed as it needs to be. The play of the defense has to be encouraging if you’re an Akron fan.
Can’t Hold Anything Back Now
Miami closes the season with the Redbird Rivalry against a competent Ball State squad in Muncie before heading to the MAC Championship game. After its showing on Wednesday, I would expect the team to play more inspired football to build momentum leading into Detroit. Meanwhile, Akron wraps up the season at home against Ohio on Tuesday. Tom Arth’s team is capable of being competitive and is laying a foundation for the coming years so it will be interesting to see how it closes out the season.