Miami needs win to kick-start stretch run
One-win Akron still dangerous
The Miami RedHawks have been in "scramble" mode for much of the 2021 season -- scrambling for wins despite the absence of quarterback Brett Gabbert, who was injured in Week One. The junior was a surprise returnee last week, but his presence was not enough to overcome an outstanding defensive performance by Western Michigan. The Broncos limited MU to 10 points and ended Miami's 16-game home field winning streak with a 16-10 victory.
That verdict gave Miami back-to-back losses for . . .
. . . the first time this season and dropped the RedHawks to 3-5 overall, 1-3 in conference play. With the East Division title out of reach, MU is now scrambling for enough wins to at least reach .500 and bowl eligibility.
Next on the list of opponents is an Akron team that owns just one win on the year, and that came back in Week One. Since edging St. Francis (PA) 30-23 in overtime, the Zips (1-7, 0-4 MAC) have dropped seven straight. However, three of the four conference losses were within seven points. Both teams face tough competition down the stretch, so there is at least a mathematical possibility that Akron could pass MU in the standings (with a tie-breaker edge). Suffice it to say, both teams are hungry for a win.
Miami leads the all-time series 20-9-1 and has won five straight games in the series. The RedHawks are 8-6 all-time at Akron and haven’t lost a road game to the Zips since 2016.
Here's more on the two teams . . .
AKRON ZIPS (1-7, 0-4 MAC)
~~ The Zips are coming off a 33-27 loss to arch-rival Kent State last week. Akron led 10-0 early and was up 17-14 late in the second quarter. KSU took the lead for good on a touchdown with 27 seconds left in the half and outscored the visitors 12-10 after intermission.
~~ Akron actually outgained KSU 492-455, had more first downs (28-22) and controlled the ball for 35:46. However, the Zips committed two turnovers, while Kent State played turnover-free football.
~~ Quarterback DJ Irons completed 32 of 43 pass attempts, good for 383 yards with one TD and one interception. He also ran for a team-high 22 carries totaling 37 yards with two scores.
~~ Sophomore Alex Adams led Akron receivers with nine catches for 199 yards and a score. His 80-yard TD reception opened scoring against KSU. Shocky Jacques-Louis recorded nine catches for a total of 88 yards.
~~ Clyde Price III registered 12 carries for 41 rushing yards.
~~ Bubba Arslanian leads all MAC defenders with 86 tackles.
~~ Akron ranks 11th among MAC teams in scoring offense (19.8 ppg). Miami is 12th/last (18.5 ppg). However, Miami ranks first in scoring defense (23.0 ppg), while UA is last/12th (38.3 ppg).
~~ Akron is last in rushing offense (72.5 ypg) and rushing defense (199.3 ypg). The Zips are second in passing (286.4 ypg) and eighth in pass defense (264.4 ypg).
MIAMI REDHAWKS (3-5, 1-3 MAC)
~~ Since early in the 2016 season Miami has lost back-to-back MAC games just twice in that span. In fact, Miami is now 11-2 following a MAC loss under Martin, dating back to Oct. 15, 2016. The last time the Red and White lost three straight conference
games was from Oct. 17-29, 2015.
~~ Miami's defense has been a strength throughout 2021. The RedHawks rank first among MAC teams in scoring defense (23.0 ppg), total defense (342.0 ypg) and rushing defense (111.3 ypg). They are fifth in passing defense (230.8 ypg).
~~ Linebacker Ryan McWood is third among MAC defenders in tackles per game (10.1). LB Matt Salopek and DB Michael Dowellare 13th (8.1 tpg).
~~ Despite missing several starters last week, Miami held Western Michigan to 304 yards with one TD and 16 total points.
~~ The Broncos registered 181 rushing yards.
~~ During Gabbert's injury absence, MU turned to QB Aveon Smith. The freshman started six games, and showed strong running skills. However, he totaled 121 pass attempts, completing 52.9 percent with seven TDs and four interceptions.
~~ Gabbert was a third team All-MAC selection last year, leading the MAC with an average of 264.8 passing yards per game and 26 passing TDs. He was second in passing efficiency.
~~ While the defense has shined, Miami's offense has struggled through much of this year. With Gabbert out, MU tried to up its ground game, but the results have been inconsistent despite an experienced offensive line.
~~ Miami is averaging 158.4 yards rushing per contest in 2022, the top season average since Coach Martin’s arrival in Oxford, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Miami has rushed for over 200 yards four different times this season, including 240 yards at
Buffalo and another 236 in a win over Kent State. For whatever reason, Miami’s rushing attacked has stalled the last two weeks, rushing for just a combined 181 yards (on 62 carries) in losses to Bowling Green (34-98) and Western Michigan (28-83).
~~ Gabbert, who was limited in his preparation before Western Michigan, showed some rust in his return to action. How much he (and the receivers) are able to improve the passing game will be key factor going forward.
~~ Mac Hippenhammer, a former Penn State wideout, leads Miami receivers with 29 catches for 360 yards and four TDs. Junior Miles Marshall, formerly with Indiana, has contributed several key catches over the last couple weeks. Meanwhile, tight end Jack Coldiron and WR Jalen Walker have combined for 35 catches, 343 yards and a TD.
~~ Kicker Graham Nicholson has been a solid contributor. To date this season, he has connected on all 16 PATs and 12 of 15 field goals with a long of 49.
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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.