AKRON — Miami University and the University of Akron will square-off on Saturday, Oct. 8. The game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. inside Infocision Stadium in Akron.
Miami comes into Saturday’s contest with an 0-5 record with losses to Iowa, Eastern Illinois, Western Kentucky, Cincinnati and Ohio. Despite the record, many positives can be found.
• Miami has outgained its opponent in four of five games.
• The RedHawks have won the turnover battle in two games and tied in another.
• In three of five games Miami has held the ball for over 35 minutes of action.
• Miami had fourth quarter leads against Eastern Illinois and Cincinnati and were an on-side kick away from having a chance to tie up the game versus the Hilltoppers. Miami also had the ball down by three points with three minutes to play versus Ohio.
Akron enters Saturday’s action with a 3-2 record, including a 1-0 record in MAC play after defeating Kent State 31-27 last weekend. Offensively, they are led by quarterback Thomas Woodson, who averages 249.4 yards passing per game. Overall, the offense averages 38.2 points and 437.6 yards per game. On the defensive side of the ball the Zips allow 37.6 points and 508.4 yards per game. Ulysees Gilbert is tops on the team with 55 tackles and 7.0 tackles for loss.
Miami currently leads the all-time series 16-8-1, but is just 6-5 overall in contests played in Akron, Ohio. The Zips are currently riding a three-game win streak in the matchup and Miami has not won in Akron since 2012, a contest the RedHawks won 56-49. That 2012 game is the most points scored in a single contest in this series.
Miami’s defense had its best performance of the season, holding Ohio to 197 yards of offense, including just 56 yards through the air. Starting quarterback Billy Bahl opened the contest, but suffered an injury late in the second quarter and did not return. True freshman quarterback Noah Wezensky saw his first career action, helping the RedHawks to their only score of the game.
Defense Sets Season Bests
As noted earlier, the Miami defense had its best performance of the season last week versus Ohio. While the scoreboard read 17 points for Ohio, seven of those points came on a returned fumble by the Ohio defense and another three points were due to Ohio starting in the Miami red zone after a fumble. A few more impressive notes from the contest are below.
• Ohio completed only seven passes in the entire game, averaging 3.1 yards per attempt. The Bobcats entered the contest averaging 275.0 yards passing per game.
• Miami forced a three-and-out three different times and held Ohio to under 25 yards on eight of 13 drives.
Three different times this season Miami has controlled the ball for over 35 minutes of action. In the contest at Iowa, Miami dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for 36:21. Against EIU, Miami once again refused to return the ball, recording a time of possession of 35:37 and versus WKU, Miami had the ball for 35:45.
Taking Care of Business
After throwing nine interceptions in his first 63 pass attempts of his career (1 INT every 7 throws), Billy Bahl has been taking care of the ball. In his final 157 passes of 2015 he turned the ball over just four times and has thrown 125 passes and four interceptions this season. In all, he has thrown just eight interceptions in his last 282 pass attempts (1 interception every 35.3 passes).
A year ago Billy Bahl made his first career start versus Ohio, completing 8-of-23 passes for 150 yards and four interceptions in a 34-3 loss in Athens. A year later, the improvements are obvious.
• Bahl ranks fourth in the MAC in passing per game (230.8) and eighth in total offense (232.6). Bahl averaged 128 yards passing per game a year ago.
• He has thrown for eight touchdowns this season after throwing eight all of last year.
• Bahl is completing 55-percent of his passes this season, compared to 48-percent a year ago.
• Bahl currently ranks 17th nationally in yards per attempt at 9.2.
Wezensky Sees First Career Action
Billy Bahl was injured late in the second quarter of the Ohio game and did not return. Enter true freshman Noah Wezensky. Wezensky would complete 14-of-25 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown in his first action as a RedHawks (Bahl had taken every snap at quarterback up to that point).
If Bahl were to miss extended time, expect Wezensky to make his first career start at Akron. Wezensky’s backup would be true freshman wide receiver Jack Sorenson due to injuries to Gus Ragland (injured in the spring) and Jordan Martin (injured in fall camp).
What A Difference a Year Makes
Last season James Gardner had three catches for 72 yards as a freshman for the RedHawks offense. This season he already has more touchdown catches than he had receptions in 2015. The sophomore leads the team in catches (22), yards (387) and touchdowns (5). Prior to Ohio, Gardner had scored touchdowns in four straight games. His five touchdown catches rank third in the MAC.
Our QB Sacked Yours
On the opening series versus Cincinnati, defensive end Austin Gearing came around the edge to bring down the UC quarterback for his first career sack. While he is a fifth-year senior, the difference is that he was Miami’s starting quarterback for the final three games of the 2013 season. That’s right, a former starting quarterback now starts at defensive end for the Red and White. Gearing checked in a 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds back in 2013 and now is up to 257 pounds just three years later. Gearing added two sacks versus Ohio and has three sacks this season.
Man in the Middle
Middle linebacker Junior McMullen is thriving as a first-year starter for the RedHawks defense. He is second on the team with 35 tackles and is coming off a career-high 14 tackles in the loss at Cincinnati. For his efforts he was named MAC East Defensive Player of the Week following the contest with the Bearcats.