With 458 yards of offense and several key special teams plays, Akron remained in first place by beating Toledo 47-30.
Quarterback -- I was truly, absolutely impressed with
Chris Jacquemain last night. He was 16-of-23 for three touchdowns, one interception and 226 yards. He didn't throw for a ton of yards, but he seemed to make the most out of every throw (even if it meant tossing it out of bounds). He showed composure that you expect from someone who has started so many games. On a couple plays, I watched him look off his primary receiver and throw to a different target upon realizing that the blitz was upon him. That kind of play is what always impressed me about
Brady Quinn when he was at Notre Dame. However, Jacquemain did throw his patented momentum-changing (
edited) pick. It didn't cost the Zips anything this time. The challenge for Jacquemain is whether he can sustain that momentum for the following week. This year, he has been very
Derek Anderson-ish, in that he will play terrible, then well. He never puts together enough good performances to anoint him or bad performances to fire him.
Running back -- What happened to
Dennis Kennedy? Since when does he no longer stare at the ground while he runs until someone touches him? Since when does he possess field vision and shiftiness to elude tacklers? This is his third HUGE game in a row. There is no question that Akron would be out of this race without Kennedy's performance the past three games. The most important play for the Zips' future, however, might have been
Andrew Johnson's 33-yard touchdown burst. He needed to find the confidence that often escapes running backs after an almost-serious injury.
Wide receiver -- If you were wondering where
Andre Jones was,
J.D. Brookhart suspended him for a game for violating the class attendance policy. The Zips' receiving corps sufficed without him.
Deryn Bowser was a first-down machine, catching seven balls for 71 yards.
Dashan Miller and
Jeremy Bruce, two guys for whom I held high expectations, scored their first touchdowns. Heck, even
Merce Poindexter scored. "Braylon Bowser" has a problem catching the ball. His route running, however, is so good that some of it is forgivable.
Offensive line -- You can't say enough good things about the holes the linemen are making and the way they are protecting Jacquemain. Toledo managed only two tackles for loss and zero sacks. The line was only flagged twice.
Defensive line -- Hallelujah! I got to see four down linemen again for parts of the game. I feel like a real football fan when that happens. It has been a long time since I have been confident about Akron's ability to stop an opposing running back at the line, like I was last night. Toledo's two talented running backs averaged only 3.6 yards per carry. As a team, the Rockets only ran for 99 yards. No particular linemen's stats are impressive, but that is unimportant. One complaint about the four-linemen set is that
Almondo Sewell should play defensive end, not tackle. Put him on the end with
Eric Lively and
Dan Marcoux can handle the inside.
Linebacker -- Each of the 'backers played well.
Mike Thomas made some key tackles on running plays early in the game.
Doug Williams caught an interception that appeared destined for his hands.
Kevin Grant only made one tackle, but I have to believe that Toledo was avoiding him purposely.
Secondary -- Ouch. These guys got picked apart. Maybe it was a function of not being strategically prepared to use four linemen. Maybe it was that Toledo has talented skill players. The Rockets targeted
Manley Waller and abused the true freshman. Akron has seven days off before it plays a similar offense in Buffalo. The secondary has to hold up longer to give the front seven (I hope it's front seven, not six) a chance to reach the quarterback. I'm still waiting for
Bryan Williams to consistently be an impact player on defense. He has three games left to prove to NFL scouts that he can be more than just a kick returner.
Special teams -- This unit changed the game.
Jalil Carter blocked a punt in the first quarter.
Aaron Williams pounced on it in the endzone for a touchdown. Once Toledo regained momentum in the second quarter, Lemon blocked an extra point and trucked it almost 100 yards for a safety. (If there was any doubt that Lemon is NOT a lineman in a three-man front, that should have been it. He outran the entire Toledo team.) If you add it up (the blocked extra point, the safety and the touchdown), the special teams accounted for 10 points. The Zips won by 17. The biggest effect, however, was the momentum that it provided for Akron and the despair it unleashed upon Toledo.
Coaching -- The Zips had eight penalties. They seemed to lose focus by earning three flags (each for 15 yards) on Toledo's last drive in the fourth quarter. Did it make a difference? Of course not. But if it becomes a trend, the team might revert back to the bush league teams of Brookhart's past. You know, the ones that couldn't go one quarter without a cheap shot personal foul. Despite my prediction, the team was not rusty one bit. They were motivated and played very hard. Kudos to Brookhart. He's got my endorsement for a sixth year in office.
Here's a shout-out to all the jackass "experts" who predicted the Zips would win one game this year. Sports fans should figure out that preseason college magazines are a huge racket. They do minimal research and come up with wildly inaccurate conclusions. Let me take you through the typical process.
Johnny Hack looks at the team's roster. "Hmm," he says. "Miami has a lot of seniors. And they were good last year. Eureka! They will be good this year, too!" Conversely, here is how a real reporter does a prediction: He/she calls the coaches, listens for their best pitch. He analyzes the stats and what the team lost from last year. Lastly, he calls the beat reporters, who are usually more frank than the coaches. If there is any prognosticator who suffers through the latter process, I will buy his magazine. If not, college football fans should boycott this amateurish garbage.
I was stunned last night when I was talking to a couple of hardcore Zips fans who often travel to away games. They rarely visit
ZipsNation.org. They had never heard of
Zeke Marshall. How is that possible? I'm not certain. But let me use this opportunity to urge you to bookmark ZipsNation and visit daily to get fan opinions and inside scoops (sometimes more than I provide).
Akron's win ensured that the Rubber Bowl's final game also will be one of its most important. The winner between Akron and Buffalo will enjoy a strangle-hold on the MAC East and basically punch its ticket for Detroit. One of the AK-Rowdies leaders told me that he expects a sell-out. I strongly doubt that, but I think the crowd will be electric on that historic night. (I'm even going to see if I can get my parents, who are alums, to attend their first Zips game.)
I will liveblog from the scrimmage tonight. You better thank me for it, too. I can't believe I will miss most of Quinn's first start for an Akron exhibition game. Oh well, I suppose it
Tickets for the scrimmage against Walsh are $5. It starts at 7 p.m.