What looked like an impending blowout going into halftime turned into a one-score game with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter. However, Miami's inability to get points early on proved to be the difference maker in this game as the Zips (5-5, 3-3) pulled away with a 37-28 win over the RedHawks (2-9, 1-6) on Saturday.
The first 20 minutes of game clock featured three touchdowns to eight punts. The game was begging somebody to take control and begin to pull away, and Miami ceded that opportunity to the Zips, who punched in two scores in the remaining five minutes of the first half to take a 27-7 lead.
After three-and-outs on each team's first drive, Akron drove the ball 76 yards on eight plays to open scoring. Sophomore quarterback Thomas Woodson found Jerome Lane for a 32-yard touchdown pass on 4th and 6 to take a lead. The RedHawks wanted in on the action too, and found pay dirt on a 16-yard pass from Gus Ragland to redshirt freshman Chris Hudson to cap a ten play, 68-yard drive and tie it up. The other score lost in the plethora of punts was a 9-yard rush from Connor Hundley that put the Zips up 14-7.
Mixed in with those three scores was four punts from each team, making for a first quarter that lasted over an hour in real time. Miami did a good job containing the rushing game, but could not hit open receivers whatsoever or even hold onto the ball. Of Miami's eight first half drives, four ended in punts, two were fumbled away, one was turned over on downs, and one resulted in a touchdown.
The Zips had finally had enough and broke the game open with two rushing scores in the final five minutes - one by Hundley and one by Cody Grice - to take a 27-7 lead going into half. At the half, Miami was outgained 323 to 158 on offense, including 152 to 16 on the ground.
Miami deferred at the toss and received to begin the second half, but freshman QB Billy Bahl was pressured on the first play from scrimmage and tried throwing the ball away as he was hit, only to be picked off on the Miami 11 yard line. Hundley would clean up the drive with a 9-yard rush up the middle to make it 34-7.
Bahl would get the ball back and find redshirt junior Rokeem Williams the first play of the drive for a 78-yard touchdown, making it 34-14. But, after forcing an Akron punt, Bahl was forced out of the pocket and threw another pick, this time to Akron's DeAndre Scott. Akron stalled again and tried a fake field goal this time, but the rush by kicker Robert Stein was stopped short.
The RedHawks began to storm back in the second half, however, starting with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Bahl to tight end Ryan Smith that came about following a blocked punt that landed Miami on the Akron one yard line. Then, Woodson threw a pick-six to Marshall Taylor on his first pass from scrimmage. Just like that, it was 34-28 and the RedHawks were right back in it when they certainly seemed to be teetering on the edge of a blowout at halftime.
Miami made yet another big stop on defense but was not able to threaten. Akron got the ball and moved down the field before stalling. After missing an extra point earlier in the game, Stein came up clutch and nailed a 50-yard field goal to make it a two-score game with under three minutes to go.
Head coach Chuck Martin made an interesting decision subbing in fifth year senior Drew Kummer - who was the starter for the first five games - to command the offense in the final drive on Miami's senior night. Kummer hit Williams on third down for 14 yards and then found Hudson over the middle for an additional 27 yards. However, an incompletion and a sack set the RedHawks up for a 52-yard field goal to at least give the special teams a chance to recover a potential onside kick and be within a score. Senior kicker Kaleb Patterson would never get a chance though, as the snap was muffed and the ensuing rush by sophomore receiver and placeholder Jared Murphy wasn't enough for the first. Akron would take over and assume the victory formation, bringing the Zips back to .500 on the year.
In a game where a good amount of the first half left the contest up for grabs, the Zips were given too many opportunities for their offense to show up. It did, and Miami's lack of conversion doomed the RedHawks to another "not close enough" loss. Hundley finished with 110 yards on the ground and a career-high three scores. Woodson kept the RedHawks honest through the air, passing for 221 yards and one touchdown.
For the RedHawks, Bahl took somewhat of a step back following his impressive games against Eastern Michigan and Buffalo. The true freshman continues to have an interception problem, tossing two more on Saturday. He finished with 206 yards and two touchdowns. Williams saw more action than he has this whole season, catching seven passes for 181 yards and a touchdown.
For the RedHawks, their final game will be next Saturday at UMass. Kickoff will be at 1:00.
The Zips have two more contests, the next of which taking place at home against Buffalo next Saturday at 3:30.