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Preview -- Akron vs. Morgan State

By mrasor Published: September 11, 2009

Tomorrow is a day that we have anticipated for years. Literally, years.
When I was in undergrad, driving to the Rubber Bowl, I dreamed about how nice it would be to roll out of bed, walk to the tailgate site, watch the game and walk home. That is what college is all about, isn't it?
Along different steps of the way, I have felt the butterflies rustle in anticipation of tomorrow. It started in fall 2004, when President Luis Proenza first mentioned "on-campus stadium" to me. It continued that year when the university released a raw rendering of the stadium. It looked like a pile of Legos, but I'll be darned, those Legos were piled up on my university's campus!
The butterflies grew I first saw an actual rendering from the architect in July 2006. I thought: "Man, what a beautiful place!" Later that summer, Mack Rhoades threw a giant party in the Student Union when all of the renderings were posted.
The butterflies hit a crescendo last football season. I had actual dreams -- seriously, dreams -- about going to this new football stadium. Then I had accompanying nightmares of missing the first game.
Then, earlier this summer, I toured InfoCision Stadium. The furnishings were far from complete, but if your jaw doesn't drop at the majesty of this building, you are far too jaded.
Like I said, tomorrow is a day I have waited for. Talking to hundreds and hundreds of Zips since I started covering the team in 2004, I know my feelings are not unique (well, maybe the nightmares/dreams are).
This will be a day of great joy for the football program. A near sell-out will make it feel nothing like the Zips games of old. I don't know how to take that, but it can't be a bad thing.
As for the game, Akron is very lucky to be starting off against a Division I-AA team. When you have such a huge sideshow as a new stadium, it must be impossible to focus on the techniques you learned during camp and the strategies against individual players.
Morgan State is better than your run-of-the-mill D-IAA team. About 20 of the Bears have transferred from Division I-A teams, including two former Zips: quarterback Carlton Jackson and defensive back Rodney Etienne. Morgan State will run the ball effectively, and the team has playmakers on defense.
Like most games between a D-IA team and D-IAA team, the outcome will depend on how the D-IA team executes. Turnovers and excitement-related penalties can give Morgan State a window. Also, the fact that it's the first game in a new stadium might make the Zips coaches more passive. "Playing not to lose" is not the best strategy for Akron.

    Notes and links...
    The ABJ's Patrick McManamon went behind the scenes and wrote a compelling story about how the Zips coaching staff prepares during the week. Definitely worth a read.
    Here is what I wrote about Morgan State on May 18.
    The Zips are a 27.5-point favorite.
    The Columbus Dispatch says this is its game of the week.
    Scroll down to read most of what you need to know for coming to campus for gameday.
    Click here for the weekly MAC Blogger Roundtable. Seven of us bloggers talk about the upcoming weekend games.
    The Plain Dealer gave 10 reasons why InfoCision Stadium is a winner.
    In Elton Alexander's story in the PD, Hunter Yurachek says a .500 season will not keep season ticket purchases at the number it needs to be.
    The ABJ's Tom Gaffney broke down Morgan State's team and spoke with Bears coach Donald Hill-Eley.
    Here are the game notes from The depth chart hasn't changed since the Penn State game.

J.D. Brookhart keeps his personnel decisions very close to the chest so I have no inside information, but I wouldn't be stunned if Matt Rodgers played a bulk of the minutes tomorrow. It's time to build his confidence, because clearly the coaches see a role for him in 2009.
Akron will win this game. The talent disparity is too strong. It is possible, however, that the Zips let their emotions run too high and commit penalties and silly mistakes. Akron 31, Morgan State 10
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