At 1-7 overall and 0-4 in the Mid-American Conference, the Akron Zips wouldn’t seem to pose much of a challenge for Miami on Saturday.
At 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the conference, the RedHawks are in no position to take any game for granted.
Akron has lost seven consecutive games since needing overtime to pull out a 30-23 win at home over Football Championship Subdivision St. Francis (Pa.) in the Zips’ seasonopener, but three of their four MAC losses have been one-score outcomes.
What concerns ninth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin is the unusual dual threat posed by Akron’s 6-foot-6, 205-pound redshirt-junior quarterback DJ Irons. The Georgia native leads the Zips in rushing with 224 net yards, but Martin points out that Irons has gained close to 500 yards while seeing his net yardage suffer because of 43 sacks.
Irons also has completed 67.2 percent of his passes (212-of-314) for 2,199 yards.
“They have a lot of quarterback-designed runs,” Martin said. “He also has a high completion percentage.
“Formationally, they have movement all over the place. They have two really good backs. Their defense has been better lately. They are a totally different challenge on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Zips netted 109 yards on the ground against Kent State, which lost, 27-24, at Miami on Oct. 8.
“Certainly, I thought we took a little step forward with our run game and when you include the quarterback runs in there. I thought that was a positive,” said first-year coach Joe Moorhead, who previously coached at Fordham and Mississippi State. “I think we did a fairly decent job from a scheme standpoint doing our best to soften it up and find ways to get a blocker on that safety. I think it was probably our line doing a little bit better job getting some push and then also finding a way to account for that unblocked safety.”
Akron also showed signs of developing more of a passing attack with sophomore wide receiver Alex Adams, a transfer from Louisiana State, catching nine passes for 199 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass on the Zips’ first offensive play.
“Alex has got a ton of talent,” Moorhead said. “He’s got multiple years of eligibility and just like everyone else in the program, in all three phases, we’re continuing to find ways to get better and better every week, and continue building for the rest of the season, and, you know, most certainly for the future.”
Martin was more concerned with how effectively Miami’s offense would be able to cope with Akron’s defense. The RedHawks have struggled offensively while losing three of their last four games, especially on the ground, where they’ve gained a combined 181 yards over the last two games, including Saturday’s 16-10 loss at home to Western Michigan.
“We did nothing well offensively,” Martin said.
Martin anticipates that Miami’s offense will become more consistent as fourth-year junior quarterback Brett Gabbert spends more time in practice. Gabbert played against Western Michigan for the first time since injuring his left shoulder late in the RedHawks’ season-opening loss at Kentucky.
“The timing in the passing game will get better, but from A to Z, we have to look at what we’re doing,” Martin said. “We have to get better, and we will get better. We have the players and the coaches to get better.
“Is the answer to simplify things? Maybe, but then you have to ask why. Maybe it’s that we’re not executing. We have the people to be better on offense.”
Miami at Akron, Noon, ESPN+, 980, 1450