Miami bounces back with victory against Akron on Homecoming

Miami's Matthew Salopek and teammates tackle an Akron ball carrier during Saturday's game at Yager Stadium. Miami University Athletics photo

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Miami's Matthew Salopek and teammates tackle an Akron ball carrier during Saturday's game at Yager Stadium. Miami University Athletics photo

OXFORD — Few folks celebrated Miami’s Homecoming football game on Saturday against Akron more than Jaylon Bester.

The fifth-year senior running back enjoyed a sort of personal Homecoming, reaching the end zone for the first time in almost two years, one of the highlights of the RedHawks’ 34-21 Mid-American Conference East Division win.

“It felt great,” the 5-foot-8, 172-pound Bester said. “I’m not going to lie to you. I was glad to be back in the end zone.”

Fourth-year sophomore quarterback A.J. Mayer, with third-year sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert watching from the sidelines wearing his red jersey and no pads, overcame persistent strong winds to throw three touchdown passes, two to sixth-year senior tight end Andrew Homer.

“This was a really good week,” said coach Chuck Martin, describing a schedule full of charity events culminating with Saturday’s festivities. “Obviously, a tough loss last week, and I was proud of how the players and coaches responded. We don’t have many games where we can relax and watch the fourth quarter. Of course, I didn’t relax.”

Bester and second-year freshman running back Keyon Mozee each added rushing touchdowns as Miami improved to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the MAC going into next Saturday’s “Redbird Rivalry” game at Ball State. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

Akron is 2-5 and 1-2. Buffalo is 3-4 and 1-2. Ohio slipped to 1-6 and 1-2.

Before the Zips scored two late touchdowns against Miami’s second team, the RedHawks limited Akron to 17 yards rushing through the first three quarters.

“We scheme up to fill gaps,” fourth-year junior safety Sterling Weatherford said. “We go one-high a lot. We give up routes, but we try to eliminate the entire run game.”

Except for Mozee’s fumble, which led to Akron’s only touchdown, the RedHawks’ offense was remarkably efficient. After being unable to score a touchdown in a 13-12 loss at Eastern Michigan on October 9, Miami scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and three of its five before halftime.

Mayer capped Miami’s first drive with a 23-yard pass to tight end Andrew Homer with 6:42 left in the first quarter — the RedHawks’ first touchdown since midway through the fourth quarter of their 28-12 win over Central Michigan on Oct. 2 at Yager. Mayer went 4-for-5 on the drive.

Mayer followed up on the next drive by finding a wide-open sixth-year senior wide receiver Jack Sorenson down the right sideline for a 57-yard score on the way to a 14-0 lead with 2:18 left in the quarter. By that point, the RedHawks enjoyed a 146-12 advantage in total offense despite having run just two more plays.

Mayer finished the first half 14-of-19 for 186 yards.

The reeling Zips used two of their three timeouts by the end of the first quarter.

Akron took advantage of Mozee’s fumble, forced and recovered by freshman linebacker Andrew Behm, to go 36 yards in three plays and score on redshirt freshman quarterback Zach Gibson’s 15-yard touchdown pass to freshman Tristian Brank, but the RedHawks responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive.

Mayer got Miami to the 5-yard line with passes to Homer and Sorenson, who was pushed out of bounds before he could score. Bester carried the last five yards for his first touchdown since scoring two in the Lending Tree Bowl on Jan. 6, 2020. He missed the entire 2020 season with a torn Achilles tendon, followed by torn knee ligaments.

“As soon as Jack didn’t score, I said, ‘I’m going in on the next play,’” Bester said with a smile. “When I got into the end zone, I was saying, ‘It wasn’t just me. It was all the people who did things for me.’”

Akron was driving before sixth-year senior cornerback Cedric Boswell, a 2018 transfer from Iowa, forced a fumble that third-year sophomore defensive end Lonnie Phelps recovered with 1:58 left in the half.

Miami had to settle for a punt, but the RedHawks got the second-half kickoff and Mozee, the transfer from Kansas State, broke free for a career-best 46-yard run and a 27-7 lead 3:21 into the third quarter.


Miami at Ball State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

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