The Miami RedHawks (4-5, 2-3 MAC East) nabbed a very important win in the race to secure a potential postseason bid on the road on Saturday afternoon, taking down the Akron Zips by a final score of 27-9.
It was the first road win in the MAC season for Miami, who had been on a two-game losing streak coming in to the contest, losing both games by 10 points combined. It was also their first win with Brett Gabbert back under center after the all-MAC QB was injured early in Week 1.
It was a rough start for both sides, as both Miami and Akron combined for 57 yards on 20 plays in four possessions, all ending in punts, with the last punt being a shank from Noah Gettmann in the back of his own endzone to give Miami short field at the Akron 39-yard line.
The RedHawks didn’t need long to convert on the short field, taking up 2:36 of clock to score on a 11-yard touchdown pass from Brett Gabbert to tight end Noah Muersch to give Miami the opening score and a 7-0 lead.
Akron would respond with a long 15-play, 70-yard drive lasting over five minutes of game clock, but three straight incomplete passes on first-and-goal from the Miami 7 forced Cory Smigel into action, kicking a field goal from 25 yards out to narrow the score to 7-3 early in the second quarter.
Miami would go on a 10-0 scoring run after that, with Keyon Mozee rushing score from three yards and a Graham Nicholson field goal sandwiching a quick three-and-out forced by the defense to put the tally at 17-3 with 1:11 to go in the first half.
The second half started off just as slowly as the first one did, with both teams exchanging frustrating drives ending in punts on the first two possessions before Akron got aggressive at the Miami 13-yard line on an 10-play drive which had found 64 yards, opting to give Clyde Price III on third and fourth downs, with the former Kansas State back getting stopped at the line both times.
Miami could make nothing of it, punting the ball to Akron after a forced three-and-out, but got the ball back on another three-and-out, which gave them the ball at the Zips 45-yard line.
The RedHawks grinded out an eight-play, 28-yard drive which took four minutes off the clock, failing to connect on a second-and-nine pass before Gabbert rushed for no gain on third down at the Akron 17-yard line before settling for a 44-yard field goal from Graham Nicholson to push the tally up to 20-3 with 14:44 remaining.
Akron got the ball back off a promising 40-yard kickoff return from Blake Hester which got an additional 15 yards tacked on for a facemask penalty on the tackle, gifting the Zips the ball at Miami’s 45-yard line to try and start the rally back up. Instead, Daniel George was stripped of the ball by Yahsyn McKee at the Miami nine-yard line on a 34-yard reception, with Ambe’ Caldwell underneath the play to recover, killing the potential scoring strike.
The Zips defense, once again called upon to give the team a chance to win, forced a three-and-out on Miami, highlighted by a Darrian Lewis sack on third-and-six for a loss of eight yards, granting the offense new life at the Akron 28-yard line after an incredible 67-yard punt from Dom Dzioban from the shadow of his own endzone.
The drive started off in promising fashion, with DJ Irons finding Daniel George for a 25-yard reception to get near midfield, but the promise was dashed by two consecutive bad plays, as DJ Irons took a three-yard sack on first down, then threw a pass right into the hands of Miami defensive back Jacquez Warren, who returned the pass 67 yards the other way for a pick-six, putting the RedHawks up 27-3 with 10:15 remaining.
Akron would get another chance to post points late, going 77 yards in seven plays to get their second touchdown of the day, as Alex Adams continued his hot form with a nine-yard receiving touchdown from DJ Irons.
The Zips had appeared to get a two-point conversion on a wild Tony Grimes Jr. reverse play which cris-crossed the field, but a block-in-the-back penalty voided the attempt. After the play, Akron backup QB Jeff Undercuffler was tagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in a row, resulting in his ejection— and a retry of the extra point attempt from the Miami 47-yard line.
The Hail Mary try was no good.
With new life, the Zips defense once forced a punt at the end of a five-play drive, and the offense took the ball at their own 26-yard line. DJ Irons and Alex Adams connected for a 16-yard play to start the drive, but once again, Irons took a sack, fumbling the ball and effectively ending the game after Miami’s Nasir Washington came up with the recovery.
Brett Gabbert finished the day 13-of-23 for 184 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for Miami, with Mac Hippenhammer (four catches, 84 yards) his leading target. No other receiver had more than three receptions. Keyon Mozee led Miami’s rushers with 52 yards and a touchdown.
Matthew Salopek picked up 12 tackles to lead Miami on the day, while Brian Ugwu had two of Miami’s four sacks, with Corey Suttle and Marlon Dawson Jr. also collecting a solo sack. Three players came down with two pass break-ups apiece, including Yahsyn McKee, John Saunders Jr. and Michael Dowell.
Graham Nicholson was 2-of-2 on field goals, whiel Dom Dzioban had eight punts (three over 50+ yards) for 385 net yards.
For Akron, DJ Irons once again was depended upon, leading in both the passing game (31-of-49, 316 yards, one touchdown, one interception) and on the run (58 net rushing yards), with no other rusher picking up more than 13 yards. The Zips had two 100+ yard receivers, with Alex Adams (10 rec., 115 yards, one score) and Shocky Jacques-Louis (nine rec., 103 yards) leading all pass-catchers.
Bubba Arslanian led Akron with 11 tackles, while Darrian Lewis and Curtis Harper each collecting a sack. The team collected five tackles-for-loss as a unit, with Lewis picking up the lone pass break-up.
Cory Smigel made his one field goal attempt from 25 yards out, with Noah Gettman picking up 285 net yards on seven punts.
The Miami RedHawks now prepare to play heated rival Ohio in the Battle of the Bricks, set to kick off next week’s Tuesday night #MACtion slate for a TBD time, while the Akron Zips will take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles, also on Tuesday at a TBD time.