Akron has had its chances to get its first win of the season the past two weeks. But when you are winless, nothing ever seems to go your way.
This time, a fumble deep inside Miami (Ohio) territory did the Zips in and they lost 19-14 on Wednesday night. Akron was able to mount a nice drive that started at its 28 with a little less than five minutes to go in the game and got down to the Miami 12. Patrick Nicely threw a pass to Jeremy LaFrance, who was hit by defensive tackle Jordain Brown. Jordan Gafford recovered at the 8 and Miami ran out the clock.
"We fought our butts off right until the very end," coach Rob Ianello said afterward. "I don't think anybody can look at our team and say we haven't improved. We've gotten good, we just haven't gotten good enough. We had our chances, we just didn't get it done, especially with the ball in our hands at the end of the game."
The loss means Akron will post its worst record since joining FBS in 1987. The team went 1-10 in 1994.
It also was the second straight week that a turnover cost the Zips late. Last week in a 37-30 overtime loss to Ball State, Nicely threw an interception on third down to end the game. In its only other close game of the season, the Zips had an extra point blocked in overtime in a 38-37 loss to FCS Gardner-Webb.
"I know it's very difficult the season we're going through right now," Ianello said. "But as I told our team, I'm proud of them. I know we're going to be a good program. I know we're going to be a good team. By the way they've battled and competed and practiced during this difficult time, that is why."
Among the bright spots for Akron: Alex Allen ran for over 100 yards for the second straight game, gaining 126 yards with two touchdowns. The defense held Miami to just 19 points, even though the RedHawks made six trips inside the red zone.
Ianello does not need to look far for inspiration or motivation. He and Miami coach Mike Haywood served as Notre Dame assistants together. Haywood went 1-11 in his first season at Miami in 2009, but this season the RedHawks have had the best turnaround in college football. Miami is now 7-4 and bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004. Earlier in the week, Ianello said what Haywood has done would hopefully "serve as a blueprint" for the Zips.
The two still talk during the season, and Haywood has given his friend some advice.
"One of the things I say ... is whatever you believe in, stick to it and good things will come,'' Haywood said. "It's the same advice [Texas coach] Mack Brown gave me. He told me that whatever course you choose to take, you're the only man sitting in that seat, so follow your gut instinct and your heart, and you will make the right decisions."
The Zips have one more shot to notch their first one at home next Friday against Buffalo (2-8), a team that has had its own share of struggles this season.