Defense was optional for Saturday’s game between the Akron Zips and Miami RedHawks at InfoCision Stadium.
In a wild game where the teams combined for 1,334 yards of total offense and 107 points, they might as well have been playing touch football.
The team that generated some modicum of defense or got the ball last with enough time on the clock was going to win this game. Ultimately, the RedHawks outlasted the Zips 56-49.
What no one probably expected was that the game’s officials would play a huge role in the closing moments. Two personal-foul penalties allowed Miami to complete an 89-yard drive for the winning touchdown on a three-yard run by Justin Semmes with 1:04 left in the game.
The Zips got the ball back one last time, driving to the RedHawks’ 38-yard line to set up one final throw. Zips quarterback Dalton Williams heaved it toward the end zone, where RedHawks defender Brison Burris intercepted at the 1-yard line to end the game.
Williams connected on 32-of-42 passes for 446 yards and four scores. Zips running back Jawon Chisholm also enjoyed a good day, rushing for 156 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
However, RedHawks quarterback Zac Dysert was the game’s star, hitting on 34-of-49 passes for 516 yards and a school-record six touchdowns. He also set a Miami and Mid-American Conference record for total offense with 624 yards.
The RedHawks (3-2, 2-0) began their final drive on their own 11-yard line with seven minutes left in the game. The two personal-foul penalties accounted for 27 of the 89 yards that it took to march for the go-ahead score against the Zips (1-4, 0-1).
“Whatever we did wrong, we’re going to have to teach them not to do it,” Zips coach Terry Bowden said. “I don’t know how to teach them how to not do what they did. We’re going to have to look at the film and teach them how not to make those flying tackles. … We just have to look at the film closely because we can’t afford to have penalties like that at the end of the game and when we have a game won.”
The Zips did have a chance to win it, coming back from 10 points down as the fourth quarter began to take a 49-48 lead after Williams found receiver Dee Frieson for his second score of the game.
The situation, however, would have been moot if the defense had stepped up and played better. Dysert had his way with the Zips’ secondary, despite feeling some pressure from the defensive line. On more than a few occasions, he was still able to make plays and extend drives with his legs, doing his best imitation of former RedHawks and current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Although Dysert rushed for 108 yards on 14 carries, including a long of 40 yards, he reserved much of the magic for the Zips’ secondary, which often looked confused about where it should be on the field.
“They outmaneuvered us a lot,” Bowden said. “I practice against our defense every day. We can hardly get people open.
“You win and lose as a team. Today, both offenses were not going to be denied. We’ll go back and look at it and see if we can improve upon it.”
Overall, the Zips’ defense gave up 705 yards. That is the kind of statistic that no coach wants to see on a box score. Bowden, however, said that the Zips will have to get past it.
“There is nothing to say. They have to hurt tonight,” he said.
“They have to work through it and tomorrow we will explain what a lot of us have been through.”
The Zips’ opening-day record in the MAC fell to 7-14. … Dalton Williams matched his season high in passing yardage with 446.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.