OXFORD – Conor Hundley scored three touchdowns to help Akron build a big lead and Robert Stein kicked a key 50-yard field goal to thwart a rally as Akron knocked off Miami 37-28 Saturday at Yager Stadium.
Ironically, both players are from the Greater Cincinnati area – much closer to Miami than to Akron. They were, however, significant pieces in a game that was trending toward a blowout before Miami rallied on senior day. Hundley’s third touchdown of the day put the visitors up 34-7 less than one minute into the third quarter as UA took advantage of two costly Miami miscues in the opening minute after intermission.
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Not only did Miami’s offense suddenly have its back to the wall again, one play later, MU’s defense was standing with it’s back to the wall. Quarterback Billy Bahl looked to pass on the first play from scrimmage. Feeling the pressure from defensive end Jamal Marcus, Bahl forced a short pass, which was easily picked off by Jatavis Brown at the RedHawks 11-yard line.
Two plays later, Hundley rushed through a gaping hole up the middle. His nine-yard TD and Stein’s kick put Akron up 34-7, a far cry from the 27-14 score that might have been moments earlier with a successful kickoff return by Thomas.
The Miami stock took another downward turn on its next possession when Bahl was intercepted again – this time on the second play from scrimmage. DeAndre Scott’s pick gave UA another short field as the Zips took over at the MU 30. When Miami’s defense stiffened, it set up fourth-and-one. Akron lined up for a field goal, but instead went for the fake. Holder Kyle Foster sprinted up the middle, only to be stopped by Miami’s line for no gain, and the RedHawks dodged another UA score. It was a missed opportunity that didn’t seem that big at the time, but Miami would later make it very interesting.
A 12-play MU drive that carried over into the fourth quarter failed with an Akron stop on fourth-and-one at the Zips three. Unable to pick up a first down, however, UA was forced to punt. Miami’s Tony Reid blocked the boot, which was recovered by Akron’s Dylan Evans at the one.
Two rushes by alternate quarterback Gus Ragland failed to reach paydirt, but Bahl came in and drilled a six-yard pass to tight end Ryan Smith for a touchdown.
Miami reached the end zone again just two plays later when Marshall Taylor picked off a Thomas Woodson’s pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. With Patterson’s kick, MU was within six points at 34-28 with 8:37 to play.
Momentum seemed to be with the RedHawks, but the Akron defense stepped up with a three-and-out on Miami’s next possession. That put the Zips in relatively good field position following a Miami punt. Woodson’s 16-yard pass to Imani Davis on third-and-six kept a nine-play drive going. That drive yielded just 30 yards, but it was enough for Stein, who split the uprights perfectly for a 50-yard field goal with 2:45 remaining.
The points made it a nine-point advantage, drastically changing what might have been, and Miami was only able to get as far as Akron’s 35 before losing the ball on downs.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t come (all the way) back, but we dug ourselves too big a hole,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “We were our own worst enemy. … We had too many self-inflicted wounds.”
Akron, which raised its record to 5-5 (3-3 MAC) kept alive it’s bowl eligibility chances with the win. It has home games with Buffalo (next Saturday) and rival Kent State remaining.
Bahl, who has struggled with interceptions at times in his true freshman campaign, completed 11 of 25 with two TDs and two interceptions. Ragland was 7 of 10 for 69 yards and one passing score.
Rokeem Williams had the Big day among Miami receivers, registering seven catches for 181 yards with one TD.