It's hard to explain how Chris Jacquemain felt after Akron's 22-14 win Saturday night.
He had recently completed an underdog charge to win the starting quarterback job. He was playing in the stadium of his hometown pro team in front of friends and family from nearby Mentor. And he performed pretty well.
"It was one of the best feelings of my life," he said with a facial expression that indicated he was close to emitting tears of joy.
Jacquemain completed 14 of 24 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate game action. More importantly, he limited mistakes, which is the trait which earned him the job in the first place.
Army's defense was porous and ineffective at rushing the passer, so it's not a performance that will define his career. Still, it showed Akron will have a quarterback who can manage the game and give the team a chance to win.
"Everything slowed down after the first possession," Jacquemain said.
Nine of Jacquemain's passes found the hands of Jabari Arthur, who perhaps played his best collegiate game yet. He caught 11 passes total for 125 yards, including an acrobatic touchdown grab.
"We got on the same page," Arthur said of his connection with Jacquemain.
Coach J.D. Brookhart praised both players after the game.
"Chris did a nice job of executing," he said. "With the new offense, he's only going to get better."
Arthur looked like an adolescent participating in an elementary school pickup game. Army single covered him, and got burnt. Then the Black Knights double covered him, and still got burnt. The coach added that Arthur's talent helps a quarterback look good.
"Jabari makes you look right a lot," he said. "You don't have to be perfect or precise."
The defense also deserves a lot of credit. Army constructed just one scoring drive. (The other touchdown was off a blocked punt that occurred after the result was fairly certain.)
Reggie Corner intercepted a pass for a touchdown. Brion Stokes was active, tallying six tackles (three for loss), a sack and a forced fumble. Davanzo Tate intercepted a pass and broke up two others.
Akron effectively rushed the passer in blitz situations, particularly from the weak side. Quarterback David Pevoto took several blind-side hits.
"Defensively, I thought we played hard," Brookhart said.
Of course, in beating an awful team by only eight points, not everything went to plan.
Igor Iveljic missed an extra point on Akron's first touchdown. Stec's punt-turned-touchdown could have been a lot more devastating. Army's Wesley McMahand found some success, rushing for 84 yards on 21 carries.
It was still a win. And it allowed Akron an exhibition contest before serious college football begins Saturday in Columbus.
"I think we grew up a little bit in areas we needed to grow up," Brookhart said.
Here are some second half notes: (See
below for first-half notes)
Pevoto didn't play badly in his first start at Army. He threw a beautiful ball to his top receiver Jeremy Trimble but it went through his hands in the end zone.
Arthur set a career high in receptions with 11. His performance tonight was nothing short of outstanding. Will other receivers step up so that defenses don't double team him?
Akron sacked Pevoto four times. That doesn't tell the entire story of how effective the blitz was in forcing bad passes. Army has an inexperienced offensive line, so you have to wonder if it will work against better teams.
Amin Kabir gets my vote for play of the game. He transposed the numbers on an Army player's jersey with a bone-shattering block during an Andre Jones punt return. That return went for 63 yards, which surpasses Jones' total yardage from 2006 (52 yards on nine returns). Click here to watch the video.
Jacquemain was only hit twice by my count. How will he react when his health is in peril by James Laurinaitis next week? That's why I call this game only an exhibition. Army was not equipped to test Akron the way many teams will later in the season.
Three times, Stec resorted to a "roll-out punt," which is a rugby style kick that flies low and end-over-end. Brookhart specifically calls for these punts as a change-up to the opponent's special teams plans. I think it will be much more effective if Stec can aim the roll-out punts away from the returner. When he doesn't, it's a recipe for a long return. Using a traditional style, Stec pinned Army once on the 5-yard line.
Brookhart approached Iveljic after his missed field goal. "I told him he couldn't do it again," Brookhart said in a gross understatement. Iveljic's fault lies in mechanics. When he picks up his head before completing his motion, the result is errant. You might be able to relate that with your golf swing.
This win marks the first victory in the opening week of the season during Brookhart's tenure.
Carlton Jackson, as I wrote after the first half, moved the team well. This semi-platoon will continue, the coach said, in order to get Jackson experience and give Jacquemain some rest. Jacquemain "was gassed" toward the end of the game. I imagine an unsaid reason also is to appease the runner-up of the fall's quarterback competition.
Also, can someone explain why Jackson has "C.J. Jackson" on the back of his jersey? The Zips have no other player with his last name. Nor is this the XFL, where you use your nickname. Maybe all this criticism will earn me a jersey moniker of "JD HATE ME."
Announced attendance was 17,865. I will call BS. But it's not as much BS as in previous home games. My guess is that number is about 5,000 higher than the actual-fannies-in-the-seats number. In any event, 17,865 is way below the predicted total of 30,000.
The Zips saved several of their offensive bullets. During camp, I saw many formations and plays that Akron neglected to use Saturday night. Knowing opponents will study this game's tape, why show your uppercut when a series of jabs will suffice?
Tomorrow, I will further break down the game. I'd like to end the night by saying, "Isn't it awesome that college football is back?"
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