Boucher steps up as RedHawks hold off Zips Print E-mail
Written by Evan Meyer   
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AKRON, OHIO The Miami Redhawks are still alive in the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division racebarely!
Playing without starting quarterback Zac Dysert, the MU offense got a career best 141 yards rushing from Thomas Merriweather. The defense contributed two fourth quarter turnovers, and special teams came up big with four Trevor Cook field goals as Miami withstood the challenge of the Akron Zips for a 19-14 victory Wednesday night at InfoCision Stadium.

Miami (7-4, 6-1 MAC) won its third straight and fourth in the last five outings as the RedHawks stayed tied with Ohio atop the East after the Bobcats 31-23 win Tuesday night at Temple. It all comes down to the final week of the season, with MU playing first at home Tuesday against Temple. If the Hawks should win, it forces Ohio to beat Kent State on Friday afternoon to win the Division.

It wasnt going to be a pretty win today. MU head coach Mike Hayood said after the game. We had to create field position, and our defense and special teams did that, along with winning the turnover battle.

With MU holding a five-point advantage late in the fourth quarter, junior defensive tackle Jordain Brown stripped the ball from wide receiver Jeremy LaFrance after a completion, and senior safety Jordan Gafford recovered with 1:46 remaining to insure the victory

They (UA) ran a screen pass that worked on us earlier in the game. Jordain Brown made a great play, and I was just there to pick it up. Gafford said.

For Akron (0-11, 0-7 MAC) it was the second consecutive game where they had a realistic chance of winning. On November 6th at Ball State, Akron come back from a 16-7 deficit to tie the game and send to overtime, only to fall in the second extra period. The loss marks the worst season since the program moved into the FBS (Division I-A) in 1987.

We fought our butts off tonight. Zips head coach Rob Ianello said afterwards. I dont think anyone can look at our team and say our kids arent playing with great effort. I dont think anyone can look at our team and say our kids dont believe we can win.

The first shock of the evening was seeing MUs starting QB Dysert - in street clothes on the sidelines. The sophomore co-captain sustained an injury in Miamis last second victory at Bowling Green on November 10th. That injury turned out to be a lacerated spleen.

It was left to redshirt freshman Austin Boucher to steer the MU offense, and he made the most of his first collegiate start completing 22-of-32 passes for 213 yards with interceptions. His previous game experience included part of the BG game - when Dysert was being tended to for the injury - as well as in blowout losses at Missouri and Cincinnati.

Austin played well today, playing within the system. But I thought the coaches were a bit too conservative in the first quarter before we started opening it up to give him more confidence. Haywood said.

The first quarter was scoreless as both teams battled for field position, with UA starting three drives inside its own  10-yard line.

The third drive, though, produced the games first score.  Starting from the UA nine, sophomore quarterback Patrick Nicely engineered a 12-play 91-yard drive, their longest of the season, to give the Zips a 7-0 lead. The big plays in the drive were two Nicely pass completions to wide receiver Jalil Carter that totaled 78 yards, as well as four straight third-down conversions. The drive ended on the first play of the second quarter when senior running back Alex Allen scored from one-yard out

It took Miami little time to respond. After the kickoff, the RedHawks moved 67-yards in just five plays. Merriweather accounted for 40 of those yards on the first two plays. He then capped the drive with a four-yard burst up the middle to tie the game 7-7.

MU would take its first lead of the night after a UA punt that left Miami at its own 21-yard line. Boucher moved the ball to the Zips four thanks to four pass completions before the defense stiffened. Cook came on for his first field-goal of the night - a 22-yarder for a 10-7 Hawks lead at intermission.

UA would regain the lead on the second play of the third quarter. After a penalty on the kickoff pinned the Zips back on their own nine, Akron turned to Allen, who turned a simple handoff up the middle into a 91-yard TD run. It was a personal best and the fourth longest run in school history. With the PAT, Akron owned a 14-10 advantage.

Allen finished the night with 126 yards, the second consecutive 100-yard game for the senior, who was granted a sixth-year of eligibility by the NCAA over the winter.

Midway through the period, MU started moving the ball again. Gaining possession after a punt on their own 22, Miami advanced to the UA seven. The key plays were two runs, totally 66 yards, by Merriweather to start the drive.

On third down, Boucher saw freshman wide receiver Nick Harwell open in the end zone, but sophomore linebacker Brian Wagner adjusted in time to make a diving deflection. Cook came on for his second field goal, this time from 25-yards, and the Akrons lead was trimmed to 14-13.

Miamis defense then held the Zips to a three-and-out.  Starting at their own 47 yard line, the RedHawks offense came calling again. A 23-yard run by Merriweather, an 11-yard completion by Boucher to wide receiver DeMarco Paine, and a roughing the passer penalty put MU on the Akron eight. However, an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the ball back to the UA 24. Two plays got the ball to the nine, but no further, so Cooks third short field goal  - a 27-yarder - gave Miami the lead for good at 16-14.

The RedHawks had a chance to add to that lead early in the fourth quarter.  Pinned deep in their territory, Akron was forced to punt. Zach Campbells boot was fielded by Paine in UA territory and returned it 24 yards to the Zips 16. Three plays moved the ball to the eight, where Cook lined up for a 25-yard field goal attempt, this one, though, was blocked by freshman lineman Nico Caponi.

We held them to a bunch of field goals. That gave us a chance to win. All we needed was to make a play. Ianello said.

Seeing momentum starting to move their way, the Zips went to a hurry-up offense.  That move seemed to work as UA moved from its own 20 to the Miami 30. But a holding penalty stalled the drive, and on the next play Nicelys pass was deflected at the line and intercepted by freshman cornerback Dayonne Nunley.

Beginning at the MU 17 with 10:28 remaining, Boucher engineered a drive that took MU to the Akron 15. The key play in the drive was a pass to flanker Armond Robinson. Initially ruled incomplete on he field, that call overturned following a look at replays. It was a 17-yard gain and kept the drive moving. With a chance to put the game away, Boucher lobbed a perfect pass that tight end Kendrick Bruton simply dropped. Cook came on and nailed his fourth field goal of the night -  this one from 33-yards, extending the lead to 19-14.

We talk a lot about getting turnovers, but we had some guys step up and make plays. It was a fun battle to be a part of, Gafford said.

Akron had one final chance to win the game. Taking possession after the kickoff on their own 28 with 4:52 remaining, again with the no-huddle offense Nicely completed a pass to Carter for a first in Redhawk territory. A pass-interference penalty on MU put the ball on the 21.

Two runs by Allen had the ball at the 14 with 2:38 remaining. Nicely then went for the touchdown but his pass for Carter was incomplete. After a one-yard run by Allen put the ball at the 12. Nicely completed a pass to LaFrance, who was stripped of the ball by Brown, and recovered by Gafford, ending the Zips final hope for victory.

We had our chances tonight. We just didnt get the job done, especially with the ball in our hands at the end of the game. Ianello said.

UA looks for that first win in the season finale of November 26th at home against Buffalo.

OFFENSE: THOMAS MERRIWEATHER-MIAMI & ALEX ALLEN-AKRONBoth running back were simply spectacular on a clear chilly night. Merriweather ,the senior from Florissant, Missouri, had a career-best 141 yards and a touchdown. Allen, a senior from Youngstown, Ohio, had 126 yards on the night - his second straight 100-yard game -  and a career-bet 91-yard touchdown run.

DEFENSE: JORDAIN BROWN & JORDAN GAFFORD-MIAMIThe pair made the biggest defensive play of the night in the fourth quarter  when Brown stripped the ball from Jeremy LaFrance and Gabbard recovered at the Miami eight with 1:46 remaining

SPECIAL TEAMS: TREVOR COOK-MIAMIThe senior Sioux Falls, South Dakota kicked a career best four field goals (22, 25, 27,and 32 yards). Last week against Bowling Green, he kicked the winning field goal through the fog after missing the previous two games with a knee injury suffered at Central Michigan.

NOTES: The matchup was the 20th lifetime meeting (14-5-1 Miami), the ninth in Akron (5-4 Miami) and the first ever in InfoCision StadiumThe 91-yard scoring drive by the Zips eclipsed the 89-yard touchdown drive against Kent StateAlex Allen-AKR his 91 yard run was the fourth longest in school history The announced crowd of 7,671 was the smallest in the brief history of InfoCision StadiumMiami head coach Mike Hayood and Akron head man Rob Ianello were both on Charlie Weis staff at Notre Dame from 2005-08 with Haywood being the offensive coordinator and running backs coach while Ianello was the Wide Recievers Coach and Recruiting CoordinatorThe game was nationally televised (ESPNU)

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