Saturday, October 4, 2003

Potent Akron offense to test Miami's improved defense

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

One team, Northern Illinois, is ranked among the nation's Top 25. Two more, Bowling Green and Miami, are "also receiving votes." Toledo and Marshall have pulled off huge upsets.

Yes, the Mid-American Conference is making some noise in college football, which comes as no surprise to Miami coach Terry Hoeppner. He's been saying all along that the MAC is strong.

"I don't know that there's anything really surprising," Hoeppner said this week, as his RedHawks prepare to open conference play against the Akron Zips at 2 p.m. today at Miami's Yager Stadium. "I said going into the season that our toughest games will come once we get into the conference. The teams that are playing well are teams that were expected to be playing well. If anything, there are probably some teams that aren't playing as well as we thought they would."

Miami (3-1) has the best winning percentage in the MAC East Division. Only No. 17 NIU (4-0) and 3-1 Bowling Green in the West are as good as or better in the conference.

The RedHawks take a three-game winning streak into their MAC opener, including attention-getting road wins at Northwestern and Colorado State and a nerve-racking win over archrival Cincinnati in Miami's home opener last week.

The MAC champion meets the Conference USA runner-up in the GMAC Bowl at Mobile, Ala., Dec. 16. The MAC runner-up earns a berth opposite the Big Ten's seventh-place team in the Motor City Bowl at Detroit's Ford Field. Miami hasn't been to a bowl game since 1986.

If anything is surprising about the MAC, it's that Akron has been so busy. The Zips, who play in the East Division, already are 2-1 in the conference. They opened the season with a conference loss at home to Kent State and a nonconference loss on the road at Wisconsin before putting together a three-game winning streak with home wins over MAC rival Eastern Michigan, non-league opponent Howard and last week's 38-21 conference win at winless Buffalo.

Quarterback Charlie Frye is the centerpiece of an Akron offense that has generated even better numbers than Miami's. The 6-foot-4, 213-pound junior ranks third in the nation in total offense, with an average of 346.6 yards a game, and in total passing yards with 1,663. He needs just 160 yards to become the program's career passing leader and 268 yards of total offense to take first place in that category.

Tailback Bobby Hendry balances the Zips' attack. The 5-10, 206-pound senior has gained at least 100 yards in four consecutive games and nine of Akron's last 11.

Miami vs. Akron

Kickoff: 2 p.m., Yager Stadium (25,183), Oxford.

Records: Miami (3-1, 0-0 Mid-American Conference), Akron (3-2, 2-1).

Radio: WMOH-AM (1450).

TV: None.

Series: Miami leads 9-4-1

Line: Miami by 16.

What to watch: Miami's improved defense is ranked third in the MAC, but it's still prone to giving up big plays, which are a specialty of Akron's electrifying junior quarterback, Charlie Frye.

AkrTeam stats MU
534.2Offense avg.457.5
175Avg. by rush126.2
359.2Avg. by pass331.2
371.2Defense avg.360.2
152.8Avg. by rush116
218.4Avg. by pass244.2
39.2Avg. points for32.5
23.2Avg. pts. against26.8

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