The Akron Zips second win of the season didn’t come at all last year.
It took a mix of defense, guts, guile and the blinding speed of a couple of local players to show why it will likely come this year.
However, the legs and arm of Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway and some trickeration on the part of the Cajuns’ coach beat the Zips 35-30.
Zips quarterback Kyle Pohl completed 27-of-43 passes for 321 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions and wide receivers Fransohn Bickley and Zach D’Orazio combined for nine receptions, 190 yards and three TDs in the loss.
The Cajuns’ Broadway completed 25-of-37 passes for 305 yards, and accounted for five touchdowns – three in the air on two rushing.
After initially showing signs of an Ann Arbor hangover the Zips gathered themselves to give fans something to cheer, unfortunately for them it didn’t end with a victory.
It took a gutsy call on a fourth-and-three at the 14-minute mark and the team trailing 21-17 to keep them in the game. After a timeout to discuss things, quarterback Kyle Pohl took three steps back and found freshman Bickley, a former St. Vincent-St. Mary standout virtually alone on the sideline.
Bickley did what he was known for the Irish. He grabbed Pohl’s pass and raced down the sideline 37 yards virtually untouched for a score and the 24-21 lead with 13:51 left in the game.
The game evolved into a battle of wills after that with the Zips holding on to their slim lead, hoping that the defense could continue what had been an effective effort.
Three and out the Cajuns went only to watch their defense hold UA on the next possession.
UA’s defense wasn’t able to do the same on the Cajuns’ next possession as they completed a 61-yard drive with Broadway leading the way on the final, pivotal play. On a third-and-seven he dropped back for a brief second and then followed his blockers to the end zone after dashing 13 yards on a draw for a touchdown that put them ahead 28-24 with 8:07 left in the game.
That’s when their coach Mark Hudspeth reached into his bag of tricks and dialed up an onside kick, catching the Zips off guard, allowing the Cajuns’ kicker Hunter Stover to recover and setting Louisiana up at their own 46-yard line.
They capped off the six-play, 54-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Broadway to wide receiver Daryl Surgent with 6:10 left in the game, putting the Zips into a 35-24 hole, seemingly burying them for the night.
But with 3:05 left in the game, linebacker Justin March, as he did last week in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines, gave his team another chance to get back into things. Dropping back in short coverage the Cajun running back, Broadway made an ill-advised attempt to sneak the ball into him with a pass. Instead March grabbed it, setting the offense up at the 32. They were unable to convert the turnover into points.
They will have to wait for that elusive second win, but they once again showed resiliency after falling behind 14-0 in the second quarter after a 15-yard run by the Cajuns’ Broadway.
It topped off an ignominious start to the game for the Zips that included two turnovers. The defense bailed them out after the first one, stopping the Ragin’ Cajuns from getting to the end zone and forcing them to settle for a field goal which their kicker, Stephen Brauschle, missed wide left.
At one point the Zips scored 17 unanswered point to take a 17-14 lead on a 49-yard field goal, a career high, by kicker Robert Stein with 4:45 left in the third quarter.
They weren’t able to continue the march toward victory.