Twelve months ago, Akron's home loss to Indiana was the turning point of the season and was the beginning of the end of the J.D. Brookhart era.
This weekend, we might have seen another turning point versus the Hoosiers, but for the positive.
The Zips lost 35-20 and were never really in good position to win. But like I said on Thursday, the key wasn't so much winning, but improving.
The Zips offense showed a pulse. More than a pulse. It averaged 5.3 yards per rush. Patrick Nicely showed a better command of the offense.
Indiana coach Bill Lynch was asked after the game about why his team had problems tackling. Maybe it was just coachspeak, but he said, "We'll watch tape and we'll see. Part of that was when you play against a good offensive football team. They're physical up front. I thought their backs were good. I think their quarterback and receivers were good. They did a good job of mixing it. We'll see after we watch some tape. I thought we played with good effort and good energy."
Lynch knows the season statistics -- that Akron is in the bottom fifth in the nation almost every category -- but he saw a different team.
The defense put up a fight, as well. Indiana could only manage to gain 2.9 yards per carry. That sort of statistic is what we normally see MAC teams accumulate against the "three yards and a cloud of dust" Big Ten. After halftime, the Hoosiers only scored once.
As any Captain Obvious will remind you, Akron is still 0-4. And the Zips still blew it against a Division I-AA school.
It's about the MAC, and getting a trip to Detroit. That goal became more likely when the best player on the division's best team suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. Temple's star running back Bernard Pierce had to be helped back to the locker room Saturday at Penn State.
Northeast Ohio fans are used to the same old excuse that the team needs to gel or learn a new system, or perhaps it's too young. I, like most of us, am skeptical when I hear that. But maybe that really IS the case for Akron in 2010.
The MAC quest begins Saturday at home against Northern Illinois, which will be coming off a win at Minnesota. It might be another game where the Zips are overmatched. It definitely is an opportunity for improvement.
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