Miami defense rules as RedHawks down Zips
By MIKE SMITH
AKRON, OH -- The Akron Zips held visiting Miami to 268 yards of offense and 2 of 13 on third down conversions, but it was MU who walked away with a 27-9 win Saturday at Infocision Stadium.
With the victory, Miami . . .
. . . broke a two-game losing streak and raised its record to 4-5 overall, 2-3 in MAC play. Akron lost its eighth straight, leaving the Zips at 1-8 overall and 0-5 MAC.
UA had been flirting with a MAC victory in recent weeks, staying within seven points in three of four MAC games under new Head Coach Joe Moorhead. However, the Zips scored at least 21 points in each of those games. It was a different story against one of the league's top defenses.
While the yardage was there, the points were not. Akron's only touchdown of the day came with 4:01 remaining in the contest. DJ Irons' 9-yard pass to Alex Adams capped a seven-play, 77-yard drive. A two-point try that initially looked successful was wiped out by penalty. The following try -- after another penality -- started at the Miami 28 and resulted in an incompletion.
It was a missed opportunity on a day of missed opportunities for UA, albeit the RedHawk defense was largely responsible for Akron's misfortunes. Miami played turnover-free football while creating three Akron turnovers. Irons completed 31 of 49 passes overall, good for 316 yards with one TD and one interception. That second half pick by Jacquez Warren came back 62 yards for Miami's only second half touchdown.
Another Akron turnover - this one on the previous Zips possession -- halted an Akron drive that could have pulled the Zips within 10. George Daniel's 25-yard catch and run was punched out from behind, with RedHawks sophomore Ambe' Caldwell recovering. Of Akron's eight second half possessions, two ended in fumbles, one on an interception, and one on downs in the Miami red zone. The Zips scored once (a TD) and punted three times over the final two quarters.
Miami's 27 points was its most since winning against Kent State (27-24) on Oct. 8. The only time it scored more than that was against Robert Morris (31-14) back in Week Two. Part of the offensive sputters were attributable to the loss of quarterback Brett Gabbert in the opener at Kentucky. MU's running game also struggled.
Gabbert returned last week, but Miami fell at home to Western Michigan. The junior was again in the starting lineup against Akron, and while MU failed to break 200 yards through the air, passing nonetheless played an important part in RedHawk scoring. So did the work of punter Dom Dzioban, who averaged 48.1 yards per boot, with a long of 67 yards.
His second punt of the game went 55 yards, forcing UA to start at its own 13. Miami's defense then drove the Zips back, setting up an Akron punt from the end zone. Yahsyn McKee's 11-yard return gave MU a short field at UA's 39-yard line. Seven plays later, Gabbert hit Nate Muersch on an 11-yard slant for a TD.
Akron, which mounted several long drives, used 15 plays to move 70 yards on its next possession. However it was forced to settle for a field goal to make it 7-3 game.
After trading punts, MU went up 14-3 with an eight-play 78-yard drive. Over half of that came on the first snap when Gabbert found Jack Coldiron along the right side for a 43-yard gain. Keyon Mozee finished the drive with a 3-yard run.
Mozee led Miami with 13 carries for 52 yards (4.9 ypc), but it was another tough day for Miami's ground game overall. The RedHawks totaled 84 yards while averaging 2.3 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, it was much of the same for Akron, which registered 80 yards rushing and 3.2 ypc. Irons accounted for 58 of those yards.
Akron completed three straight passes on its next possession, but Miami made sure they were short, forcing a quick punt. When Gabbert hit Hippenhammer for 58 yards on the next play, the RedHawks were again in position for points. Gabbert completed 13 of 23, good for 184 yards and one TD in his second game back.
Akron's defense stiffened, limiting Miami to a 33-yard field goal by Graham Nicholson to make it a 17-3 RedHawks lead at intermission. It stayed that way through a scoreless third quarter, but Nicholson a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth stanza and Warren's interception return left MU in front 27-3 before the late Akron TD.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.