AKRON, OHIO – Junior quarterback Tra’Von Chapman set a career high with three touchdown passes and added an early 70-yard touchdown run as the Akron Zips pulled away in the second half to beat the Miami RedHawks 35-13 Saturday afternoon on Homecoming Day at InfoCision Stadium.
Akron (4-2, 2-0 MAC) now owns its best start after six games for the second time in the last three seasons and for the sixth time since the school moved into the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1987.
“My first thought (on the game) is what a great team win,” UA coach Terry Bowden said. “Everybody did their part.”
The victory was . . .
“We gave them some plays and they took advantage of it.” RedHawks head man Chuck Martin said. “They (Akron) have good quality athletes and a great athletic quarterback (in Chapman).”
Chapman completed 15-of-29 passes for 124 yards and three scores on the sunny and cool fall afternoon. He added 80 yards rushing, but the most important statistic was no turnovers.
The game was a battle of backup quarterbacks as UA started the transfer Chapman for the second consecutive game. He took over for junior Thomas Woodson, who injured his shoulder in the Zips home loss to Appalachian State. Chapman started last week at Kent State and defeated the Golden Flashes 31-27 with a last minute touchdown drive.
Both teams scored on their first offensive possessions, but in very different styles.
Starting at their own 21, the RedHawks used several screen passes and short runs to reach Akron’s redzone. When the drive stalled, Nick Dowd came on to kick a 23-yard field goal to open scoring.
UA countered that score on its second offensive play. Chapman, using the read-option, went to the left and sprinted nearly untouched down the left sideline 70 yards, a touchdown.
The Zips added to their 7-3 advantage on their next possession as Chapman put together a 10-play, 78-yard drive, using the medium range pass while converting three third-down opportunities. After reaching the Miami 24, Chapman found junior WR Austin Wolf over the middle to make the score 14-3.
UA added a third touchdown as it engineered an 84-yard 13-play scoring drive. The trip was aided by four Miami penalties, two of which resulted in first downs.
The RedHawks have been plagued by penalties in recent week. While they cut the count down to 6 for 50 yards (about half of the previous week), the flurry helped advance the Zips.Akron was at the MU 22 when Chapman found senior WR Jo Jo Natson on a go-pattern down the right sideline for the touchdown and a 21-3 lead.
On Miami’s possession after the touchdown, the offense started to move the ball for the first time since the opening drive. Using the running of sophomore Alonzo Smith and a 26-yard completion by Wezensky to junior TE Ryan Smith, MU moved from its own 37 to the Zips six before the defense stiffened. Dowd came on for his second short field goal, this one a 24-yarder to make the score 21-3 at halftime.
Wezensky would finish the day going 14-of-28 passing for 153 yards he also added 26 yards on the ground. His tight end recorded five receptions for 62 yards and the score.
After the ‘Hawks defense forced a three-and-out, they got the ball back on a punt at their own 20. Akron’s defense then provided one of the game’s biggest plays. Wezensky was under heavy pressue when the ball squirted out of his hands. The half-pass, half-fumble aerial then landed in the hands of sophomore DB Nathan Bischof just a few yards away.
It was the second consecutive week that Wezensky has been involved in such a turnover, Ohio posted a touchdown with just 1:30 left in that game when Wezensky tried to get rid of the ball under heavy pressure. That turnover was declared a fumble. Official play-by-play this time around called Bishof’s grab an interception.
It was one of three turnovers for Miami on the day, two of which led to Akron scores.
UA capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown as from the MU one. Junior RB Mykel Traylor-Bennett, took a direct snap and went off the left side to make the score 28-13. It was his third touchdown in the last two games as he scored the game winner last week at KSU.
Wezensky threw his third interception of the game in the fourth period as sophomore DB Kyron Brown stepped in front of a pass at the Miami 32.
Natson led all recievers in the game with seven catches for 81 yards and two scores. Following the TD, he left the field shaken up but under his own power.
For most of the game, the defenses played well. Miami held UA to a season low 299 yards of total offense, led by sophomore De’Andre Montgomery with six tackles (four solo). The Zips defensive 11 held the Hawks to just 260 total yards and were led by sophomore LB Ulysses Gilbert with nine total stops (five solo).
“Today was a great example of everybody playing together,” Gilbert III said. “We’re going to get better every day, but I really felt really good about how we played together, how we ran to the ball and how we rushed the quarterback.”
UA will get its biggest test of the young MAC season as the nationally ranked Western Michigan Broncos come to InfoCision Stadium with a perfect 6-0 record (2-0 in MAC play) after defeating Northern Illinois at home 45-30. Miami heads home to face Kent State, who defeated Buffalo on Saturday 34-20.