Opening Day was everything I could have imagined as a fan. Tailgating was supple in many areas of campus. The atmosphere was thick, particularly on Spicer Street. Oh, and the Zips won big.
My group tailgated in the law school parking lot. Some of my classmates were squeamish about that, but I think the police and administrators approached this day with a realistic view of what needs to be permitted on gameday.
I spent time at several areas of the stadium, including the west student section and south endzone's grassy hill. For Akron students attending their first game, it must have been an experience that will bring them back on Saturday.
Anyhow, here are grades from the
41-0 beatdown of Morgan State.
Quarterback -- You saw the two-quarterback system work very well yesterday. If
J.D. Brookhart subs his quarterbacks in that manner, it might give the Zips a strategic advantage.
Chris Jacquemain and
Matt Rodgers have similar talent levels, but they present different styles. Coaches hate uncertainty, and Brookhart knows he would hate to prepare for two quarterbacks. So it certainly can work. Jacquemain's connection with
Deryn Bowser is a definite advantage. Rodgers' ability to turn a five-yard sack into a 20-yard gain is another. Both players showcased their strengths, and Akron's offense barely sputtered after the first couple drives.
Running back --
Dale Martin looked good, rushing for 64 yards on six carries.
Alex Allen must not be completely healthy. He scored a touchdown but did not move the ball as consistently as a team requires from its featured back.
Norman Shuford is probably not as ready to play as the coaches believe. If he can't average more than 2.5 yards per carry against Morgan State, he won't be much of an asset against some of the MAC defenses. His value as a true freshman is catching balls out of the backfield, where he can get some air to breathe and make cuts.
Receiver -- Bowser and
Jeremy Bruce are a nice complementary team. Bruce is the possession receiver. Bowser is the big-strike player. I think the team needs a little more out of this position, however. It's true that the safety position was worse off than receiver, but I think
Andre Jones makes more impact on the game as a receiver. I would have kept him there. The season is still early, so we could see
Jeremy LaFrance develop consistency or
Nadir Brown become comfortable. For that reason, we won't know if the Jones-to-safety decision was right until maybe midseason.
Offensive line -- The line protected Jacquemain much better this week, but I didn't see the consistent holes created for the running backs, which we did see last year. It's easy to pretend all is well after a blowout over a I-AA team, but let's be realistic. The offensive line must really improve in the next few weeks, or else we'll see a lot of third-and-longs. There are far too many missed assignments. Until that ends, Akron has to consider using a lead blocker.
Defensive line -- Anytime you hold a team to 1.8 yards per carry, you can give some credit to the guys up front. Morgan State's
Devan James is a nice player, but he got stuffed more often than not. Although their stats weren't jaw-dropping, the linemen occupied blockers so that the linebackers could look like stars.
Linebacker -- Mark these words, Akron has a stud player in
Brian Wagner. I will probably use his name on this blog 500 times in the next four years. He has a great nose for the ball, plus athleticism. When I watched him march that interception back for a touchdown, I realized we have a perennial All-MAC player. On Saturday, he forced two fumbles, took an interception back for a touchdown, led the team with tackles (nine) and made a sack. His fellow linebackers played well, too.
Aaron Williams is another star in the making. I was also happy to see
Shawn Lemon get serious playing time. Once he fully comprehends the linebacker position, he will be an unstoppable pass rusher. Let's not forget
Mike Thomas, another All-MAC candidate. You can credit this unit for being the reason that Akron has held opponents scoreless for the past six quarters.
Secondary -- What looked like a weakness is actually an asset.
Manley Waller and
Miguel Graham are a great team at cornerback. Waller intecepted one
Carlton Jackson pass and broke up two others. Moving Jones has given the defense four solid, experienced safeties. With the front seven playing so well, the safeties didn't get much action on Saturday.
Special teams --
Branko Rogovic missed two field goals and made two.
John Stec punted only once, and it was a 24-yard dud. The returners didn't do anything special.
Coaching -- I was very impressed with Akron's demeanor on such an emotional day. The Zips committed just ONE penalty, compared to Morgan State's 11. No turnovers is another fine accomplishment. Akron's defense appears poised to be a strength for the entire season. The offensive line has atrophied since 2008, but I'm sure run blocking will be a focus heading into next week's game. The first five-or-so plays were scripted, and the offense zipped down the field. Kudos to Coach Brookhart for making Sept. 12 a great memory for 27,881 fans. I'll never forget it.
Stories to read:
gave the coaches' and players' perspective on Opening Day.
spoke with some of the people who have been around the university's athletic department for a long time about what this meant to them.
Below are some cell phone pictures I took during the day:
Students on the south-endzone hill
I was told an engineering student made this device. Perhaps with too much time on his hands
Paratrooper lands on field before game
Paratrooper lands on field before game