I tell you what, beating Kent State cleansed most of the bad taste from my mouth. Is it going to give Akron a chance at bowl eligibilty? No. Will it save J.D. Brookhart's job? Probably not.
But for one evening, it was good to root for the Zips. With perfect weather and a great effort by the players, it's the kind of evening that Akron fans envisioned when InfoCision Stadium was being built.
Here are the grades...
Quarterback -- Last night, we saw two players who will be stars in the MAC East for the next three years.
Spencer Keith and
Patrick Nicely looked like poised gunslingers, not green teenagers. Akron and Kent have serious assets with these two. Nicely played the game I expected. He completed 19-of-34 passes with two touchdowns, one interception and 261 yards. Watching his development has made this season entertaining, despite the negative aspects.
Running back -- Eight players took carries for Akron. The most impressive, at times, was
Broderick Alexander. You can tell Alexander has talent, but he needs to play without fear. The times when he takes the ball and goes, you can see he's going to be a great runner. The times when he hesistates after the handoff, you are sure to see Akron take a loss on the play.
Joe Tuzze and
Dashan Miller showed bursts of effectively used energy on their opportunities. I like using
Andre Jones in the Wildcat formation, too.
Jeremy LaFrance scored two touchdowns with 126 yards. Jones caught six passes for 93 yards. If
Deryn Bowser was healthy, this would be a phenomenal receiver tandem -- the one we thought we would have in the preseason.
Offensive line -- Do you want to know the difference between this week and the previous eight? The offensive line played well. It kept Nicely from getting sacked. It opened big holes, particularly in the second half. If you don't win in the trenches, you will struggle to score. This is Akron's first victory in the trenches in a long time.
Defensive line --
Deni Odofin and
Hasan Hazime combined for three tackles for loss. Hazime showed a new violent side, which I liked. You can't overstate the importance of holding Kent to 1.8 yards per carry. It put a tremendous burden on the Flashes' true freshman quarterback.
Brian Wagner continued his All-MAC season with 15 tackles, including two for loss.
Mike Thomas made an interception. The whole corps did a great job filling gaps and stifling Kent State's running game.
Secondary -- It's true that Keith threw for 377 yards, but he also had 59 attempts to do it. I thought the Zips secondary did a fine job, particularly
Jalil Carter, who made a few punishing tackles.
Wayne Cobham and
Manley Waller grabbed interceptions.
Miguel Graham broke up six passes, which is a huge total.
Special teams --
Zack Campbell has turned out to be a fine punter. He pinned Kent State inside the 20-yard line twice. On the other hand, I think it's time to officially announce a problem at place kicker.
Branko Rogovic missed a 27-yarder. Grade: C+
Coaching -- It pains me to read how Brookhart talks about the team "not quitting." The upside is that it's true. They really have not given up on this season, despite a long losing streak, suspensions and injuries. The Zips have beaten Kent State three-straight times, and Brookhart is 5-1 against the rival team. At some schools, beating the rival is all you really need to continue as coach. I think that, combined with strong finish to the season, might (might) be enough to keep Brookhart. Right now, it's an easy decision. The team is 2-7 and has underachieved. But if it finishes the year on a four-game winning streak and has a young, improving offense, it will give
Tom Wistrcill a tough decision.