The Akron Zips (2-6 ,1-3 MAC) beat the Miami RedHawks (0-7, 0-3 MAC) 24-17 Saturday in one of the sloppiest games of the season. The Zips struggled against what is statistically the worst team in the FBS, almost blowing it in the end. But when the clock hit zero Saturday night Akron won what might have been the most important and monumental game in program history, ending years of futility.
In 60 minutes of action the team achieved what no other Zips' team had in 1,058 days, or 28 games–they beat an FBS opponent. But that wasn't all the win did for the struggling Akron program.
Just over five years from the date of the Zips' last road win, on Oct. 19, 2009. vs. Eastern Michigan, they snapped a 30-game road losing streak. It also marked their first win in Oxford, Ohio since 1939, a 74 year drought. With the win the Zips also gave their head coach, Terry Bowden, his first conference victory since taking over the team prior to 2012, and matched their win total from the 2011 and 2012 season combined.
But it almost didn't happen.
Akron forced a Miami 3 and out to start the game, and blocked Miami punter Zac Murphy's punt deep in RedHawks' territory, taking over at the 13 yard line. Four plays later the Zips jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a 2-yard run by Jawon Chisholm with 12 minutes left in the first quarter. It appeared that Akron would have little trouble with the 'Hawks.
But then they did. The Roos' next drive ended in a short punt, and Miami quarterback Austin Boucher responded by marching his team down the field capping off a nine-play drive with a six-yard pass to David Frazier with under five to go in the first half, knotting the game at 7-7.
Akron's next three drives were disastrous, ending in a fumble, a missed field goal and another fumble, this one at the 1-yard line right before halftime. Despite out gaining Miami across the board, the Zips found themselves locked in a heated battle.
But something clicked in the Akron locker room , as the team came out playing with a purpose to start the second half. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl, who finished the game with 227 yards on 23 of 32 passing, marched the team down the field on 66-yard drive ending in another Chisholm rushing touchdown, his second of three on the day. After forcing a punt on the RedHawks' next drive, Pohl and Chisholm did it again, capping off a 67-yard drive with a goal-line stand rushing touchdown by Chisholm to give the Zips a 21-7 lead midway through the third.
From there the Akron defense, inspired by the team's late lead, took over, forcing a missed field goal, an interception and a fumble. The Zips added a 19-yard field goal to take a commanding 24-17 lead with 8:19 left in the game. Then all hell broke loose.
Boucher led the Miami offense on a surge late in the fourth, tossing a 44-yard touchdown pass to Dawan Scott to cut Akron's lead to 10 with just under five minutes to go in the game. The 'Hawks kicked an onside kick, and recovered it. Despite taking two sacks to start the drive, Boucher was able to get the offense moving slightly, but the drive ultimately stalled at the Akron 34-yard line. Miami brought out Kaleb Patterson, who had missed a 39-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter, to attempt a career-long 52-yard field goal. With 1:27 left on the clock the kick sailed through, and suddenly Akron's dream game had turned into a nightmare.
The zips lead was cut to a single score, and Miami was clicking on all cylinders. Akron recovered the on-side kick and were aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on RedHawks' defensive back Jarrell Jones on the kick. But Miami's defense stepped up to the challenge and forced Akron into a 4th and 2 at the Miami 24 with 1:12 on the clock. IF the Zips converted it was game over, but fail and you give a 'Hawks offense with plenty of momentum on its side the ball with more than a minute to make something happen.
The Zips went for it, and Chisholm, who finished the game with 86 yards on 16 carries bounced off the right guards hip for a 2-yard gain and barely got the first down to give Akron the victory.
Despite the loss, Miami showed signs of improvement for the second consecutive week under interim head coach Mike Bath. The 'Hawks held the Zips to 374 yards of total offense, while managing a season high 18 first downs and 303 total yards. The team also limited turnovers, coughing up the ball just once all game. Boucher had his best game of the season, throwing for two scores and 226 yards on the day.
But in the end it was Akron's day, and the torch of the worst team in the MAC was officially passed from the Zips to the 'Hawks, after Akron carried it for three long seasons.
With the win Akron moves up to a tie for fifth place in the MAC East standings with Kent State, while Miami slips to last in the East as the only team in the division without a conference victory.
The Zips return home next week to take on the high-flying Ball State Cardinals (7-1, 4-0 MAC). The RedHawks head to Athens, Ohio for a rivalry matchup with the Ohio Bobcats (5-2, 2-1 MAC)
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