After achieving a rare win last weekend, Miami hosts its last home game of the season against Akron University this weekend. Twelve senior players will be honored during the game.
The RedHawks (2-8, 1-5 Mid-American Conference) snapped an eight-game losing streak last Saturday with a 28-13 win against Eastern Michigan.
Head coach Chuck Martin said it was the most complete win MU has had since he arrived at Miami.
“We’re starting to believe in ourselves,” Martin said. “Last week we put it all together. And the score was probably closer, 28-13, than the game actually was. We physically handled them on both sides of the ball. We haven’t done that since I’ve been here.”
The offense was led by a strong rushing attack (291 yards) and an efficient passing game (13-of-18 for 150 yards), while the defense allowed just 10 first downs and 192 yards and totaled a school record nine sacks.
“It was probably one of the most complete games we’ve had since I’ve been here,” senior linebacker Kent Kern said. “Our defense has been clicking pretty good these last couple weeks, and our offense has been getting better and better. They ran the ball all over Eastern, and that’s a big part of our offense.”
Akron may pose a problem for Miami’s offense, which struggled to run the ball until the EMU game. The Zips’ rush defense ranks fifth nationally, holding opponents to 96.7 yards per game.
Senior running back Conor Hundley is the team’s leading rusher with 669 yards and six touchdowns on 136 carries. Under center, sophomore QB Thomas Woodson leads the Zips, completing 107 of 201 for 1,415 yards and 10 touchdowns. Woodson’s top target is senior wide receiver Imani Davis, who has 32 catches for 411 yards and two touchdowns on the year.
“We’ve had really good game plans, especially these last few weeks,” Kern said. “It all comes down to us playing physical and playing smart, reading our keys and doing what we’re supposed to do. If everyone’s doing their job, then the whole defense is going to be successful.”
Akron (4-5, 2-3 MAC) is coming off a 17-13 win against the one-win University of Massachusetts.
Four of Akron’s five losses this year — University of Oklahoma, University of Pittsburgh, Bowling Green University and Central Michigan University — are schools that participated in bowl games in 2014. They also beat 2014 bowl participant University of Louisiana in September.
“If we get a little better than last week, we’re gonna be right in this game in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win it,” Martin said. “If you make some plays down the stretch, you win another football game, which would be huge for our program.”
Freshman QB Billy Bahl leads a Miami offense that averages 338 yards and 16.7 points per game. He’s completed 75 of 172 passes for 1043 yards, five touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Sophomore wideout Sam Martin leads the team in receiving yards (541) and catches (28) with two touchdowns. On the ground, redshirt freshman RB Alonzo Smith leads the rushers with 383 yards and four touchdowns on 91 carries.
“I’ve been feeling good for a while, I really have,” Martin said. “I’m pretty realistic with where we’re at and what we’re doing here. Yeah, I want it to happen today, but I’ll jump of a bridge if I live that way, if I expect it to happen today. Because that’s not realistic”
Miami leads the all-time series with Akron, 16-7-1. The RedHawks have lost the last two meetings.
Both Kern and Martin said they’ve seen the players gain confidence during the progression of the season, which is especially important for the younger players.
“It doesn’t feel like we’re on a losing team anymore, it feels like we’re on a winning path,” Kern said. “We’re always talking about how a lot of teams that aren’t going to a bowl game at the end of the year are on a downward trajectory, and we’re on a steep upward trajectory heading into the offseason.”
Kickoff is 12 p.m. Saturday in Yager Stadium.