Sixteen Zips played their last college game tonight. And they did their darndest to avoid leaving school with a 12-game losing streak.
Akron beat Buffalo, 22-14, in a frigid game attended by family, friends, people in luxury suites and the Inuit.
You could tell that the senior class forced this team to victory. Many seniors provided indispensable contributions: Alex Allen's 120 rushing yards, Jalil Carter's 109 receiving yards with a touchdown, Jeremy LaFrance's 65 receiving yards with a touchdown, Mike Thomas' 14 tackles, and Shawn Lemon's fumble recovery that ended the game.
As the buzzer sounded, Rob Ianello was drenched in Gatorade. Deserved? I say, yes. In a season where the program learned the hard truth about the talent level and suffered through 11-straight losses, Ianello kept the team as focused as any coach can be expected to. In late November, they played hard and won.
This win was as big as the three from last season combined. Akron probably won't compete for a MAC East title in 2011, but it's possible. Miami went from 1-11 in 2009 to MAC East Champs in 2010.
See what one win can do? I'm already talking Detroit. My point is, we need to end some of the negativity.
Akron fans have been too positional in the Ianello debate. They're either an "Ianello guy" or not an "Ianello guy." How about this: Put aside prejudices and just be a "Zips guy" for the next couple seasons. Barring a major scandal, I promise you the coach won't be fired before the end of 2012. So either choose to be miserable, or accept the set of facts before you and root for Ianello to succeed.
And no, I'm not an Ianello apologist. I have not been happy with multiple coaching decisions this year. The team was too conservative on offense; for many games, it looked like they were playing to minimize the severity of a loss, rather than to win. I can't really explain taking the redshirt off Dylan Potts, or the program not being as fan-friendly as in the past, or the need to smack-talk a player behind his back via text message.
But give the guy a fair chance. Give him the opportunity to correct the things that we perceive to be mistakes. And let's also be realistic that Ianello has not had a chance to show off his greatest strength: recruiting. (The 2010 signees were mostly J.D. Brookhart recruits.)
The bigger area of concern heading into 2011 must be the dreadful attendance. Between timeouts, I tried to count the audience myself. I would be stunned if you told me there were more than 3,000 spectators (announced attendance was 5,216).
In the next week, I will break down what we can expect to see heading into spring football.