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Akron Zips football: UA to honor late offensive line coach Alan Arrington

By George Thomas Published: September 30, 2014

The team’s jerseys will have a gold tank patch sewn on jerseys for this week’s conference opener in honor of Alan "Tank" Arrington, the team’s offensive line coach who died in an auto accident last December.

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Akron Zips football: Terry Bowden sought a spark when substituting for Pohl

By George Thomas Published: September 30, 2014

No one is immune to increased competition on the University of Akron football team.

That includes quarterbacks.

Coach Terry Bowden demonstrated that Saturday against the Pitt Panthers when he pulled starting quarterback Kyle Pohl in favor of his backup, Tommy Woodson, who played his high school football in Western Pennsylvania.

The metaphorical hook appeared on the Zips fourth possession when Woodson found himself the recipient of some playing time.

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Akron Zips football: Final thoughts redux - just one more thing

By George Thomas Published: September 28, 2014

The Akron Zips beat the Pitt Panthers unequivocally in almost every phase of the game Saturday at Heinz Field.

The Panthers should have no excuses, but this is reality, not Fantasy Island. 

I posted my keys to the game Friday and they were pretty much dead on.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back.  My final thoughts posted last night, but I omitted one very significant factor in the Zips win.

Pitt thought they were the best team on the field, but the Zips played like it.  Colleagues in the press box could see that.  They expected UA to roll over and play dead after being smacked on the nose by one touchdown – like in Penn State and even in that instance, UA didn’t quit.

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Akron Zips football (video): Zips 21, Pitt 10; some final thoughts and Bowden speaks

By George Thomas Published: September 27, 2014

The Akron Zips football earned every right to celebrate their huge 21-10 win over the Pitt Panthers considering the way they played.   It wasn’t easy, initially, but no one can question their heart.  Most of my final thoughts this evening are positive, but as they head into Mid-American Conference play, issues still exist that need correction.

Clearing the hurdle:  After coming close against Michigan, hanging tough against Penn State and getting shellacked by Marshall, there’s little doubt that coach Terry Bowden was savoring this victory.

“I don’t have many sweeter than this.  Where we’ve started and how far we’ve come, I wouldn’t think of a win today,” he said. “It’s a big win.  As much as I just want to savor the victory, it’s only going to last seven days.  But you can’t take a victory like this away from these young men.  Four our players to come into Pittsburgh and win this game – it’s a big win for Akron.

Chuck Amato’s defense redeemed itself: After last week’s showing against Marshall that saw them give up 48 points, the Zips defense regrouped.  They went back to how they were playing in fall camp – that swarming style of hitting and tackling.  It showed in the way they tackled the country’s leading rusher, James Conner, holding him to 92 yards on 25 carries.

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Zips football: UA pulls upset, beats Pitt 21-10

By George Thomas Published: September 27, 2014

PITTSBURGH: The University of Akron football team pulled an upset at Heinz Field, beating the Pitt Panthers 21-10 on Saturday.

Conor Hundley rushed for 148 yards in the win, and nose guard Cody Grice, who played fullback at Firestone High School, scored touchdowns in the win.

Quarterback Kyle Pohl, pulled earlier in the game, came back to lead the Zips to the win with a 15-of-29 passing for 193 yards. He passed for a score.

The Zips defense held the nation’s leading rusher, James Connor, to 92 yards in the upset.

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From the other side: Akron Zips versus the Pitt Panthers

By George Thomas Published: September 26, 2014

Many thanks to Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for providing insight into the Pitt Panthers this week:

Q:  What are James Conner’s strengths and weaknesses as a running back, especially given that he is a converted defensive end?

A: Conner's biggest strength is definitely his physicality. He's 6-foot-2, 250 pounds and can absolutely run people over. He has been getting a ton of carries through four games (27.5 carries per game), which is sort of a double-edged sword. On one hand, that sort of workload is very rare in college football and we'll see if it can hold up, but the positive is that as he runs over linebackers and defensive backs, you can tell they start to ease up in the third and fourth quarter and aren't so eager to try and lay a big hit on him. He also is a little bit quicker this year than last, and has some moves.

His biggest weakness is just knowing what the right move is on a given run. Even though he's a bigger back, he can run a bit smaller at times. By that I mean he has a bit of a tendency to bounce things outside or try spin moves to evade defenders rather than just bowling them over. He's definitely better than he was last year, but he needs to remember that he's at his best when he's running north-south between the tackles.

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Akron Zips football: Five keys to the UA-Pitt Panthers game

By George Thomas Published: September 25, 2014

The Akron Zips have another opportunity to show how they stack up against other programs considered more prominent.

Thus far it’s been a mixed bag.  They were in the mix for much of the Penn State game.  As for Marshall?  Yeah, let’s just file that one away under the “Oops” category.   Now comes, the Pitt Panthers, a team that features a ferocious rushing attack and solid defense.  Some would say the Zips could be looking at another blowout.  However, some things the Iowa Hawkeyes did in defeating the Panthers last week might serve as a road map.

For UA to beat Pitt, they need to do the following five things.

Score touchdowns not field goals:  UA has been abysmal in red zone offense this season.  In fact the first-team offense hasn’t been able to establish much in the way of continuity since walloping Howard the first week of the season. In the red zone they’re a troublesome 50 percent [6-of-12] overall and 33 percent [4-of-12] when it comes to scoring six points.

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Akron Zips football: George Thomas' final thoughts on deflating loss to Marshall

By George Thomas Published: September 20, 2014

The Akron Zips lost 48-17 to the Marshall Thundering Herd at Infocision Stadium.  There isn’t a lot to say in such a loss, but here are my final thoughts regarding this umm…err…contest.

They had no ability stop the run:  Defensive coordinator Chuck Amato said it earlier this week.  The Akron Zips defense had to stop the run and make the Marshall Thundering Herd’s offense one dimensional.  With two running backs – Devon Johnson and Remi Watson – over 100 yards, that didn’t happen.  That is one area that caused the Zips to lose the game.  Yup, they missed linebacker Justin March, who didn’t play.

No pressure on Rakeem Cato:  When Marshall wasn’t running, they weren’t getting a lot of pressure on Cato any way. He didn’t have his normal 317 yards of passing per game, but he was effective enough.  He also inflicted some damage on the ground scoring two touchdowns with his legs.

Their offense did them no favors:   The reality, however, is the offense did the defense few favors in this game.  There was little in the way of a spark and the scant few times they generated any sense of rhythm it would for naught.

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Akron Zips football: Marshall beats UA 48-17 at Infocision Stadium

By George Thomas Published: September 20, 2014

By the time the University of Akron football team found any rhythm on offense it was too late to drum up anything that could match the rampaging offense of the Marshall Thundering Herd.

The Zips (1-2) spotted the Herd (4-0) a 24-point lead courtesy of an ineffective offense that delivered their opponent four turnovers that led to 17 points – one a fumble on a nice play by a Marshall defender and the other courtesy of an interception after a pass breakup.   More importantly, two of those gifts came in the red zone with UA having the chance to get back in the game.

Marshall used that advantage to beat the Zips 48-17 at Infocision Stadium.

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Akron Zips football: Injury problems arise ahead of Marshall kickoff

By George Thomas Published: September 20, 2014

The Akron Zips will into their game against the Marshall Thundering Herd without three starters.

The biggest hit may come in the person of Justin March who was injured during the Penn State game.  March, one of the team’s defensive leaders, will miss the game. That means junior Dylan Evans will step up and fill his rather substantial shoes.

The offense will take the brunt of this, losing two starters.  Starting running back Jawon Chisholm will miss the game with an injury.  It will provide someone at the running back an opportunity.  More than likely that will be redshirts sophomore Hakeem Lawrence

Coach Terry Bowden said earlier this week that the Florida native had earned some more reps in game situations.  This looks like it could be the day that fate dictates that happens.

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Akron Zips football: Keys to the game against the Marshall Thundering Herd

By George Thomas Published: September 18, 2014

Call it part deux of the three trials of the Akron Zips.  The first came last week against Penn State where the team had opportunities that they squandered and essentially ran out of gas.

This week it’s Marshall, a former member of the Mid-American Conference, that is off to a 3-0 start, a feat that’s impressive itself, but it’s also a matter of how the Thundering Herd arrived at that record to open the season.

Marshall comes into the game averaging 44.7 points per game (No. 15 nationally) and better than 620 yards (No. 2 nationally) of total offense per game under the guidance of quarterback Rakeem Cato, a senior quarterback from Miami, Fla.

This could very well be the Zips’ stiffest test on defense all year.  That’s not to say they’re not up to the challenge.  UA owns the sixth-ranked scoring defense in the nation giving up just 10.5 points per game.  Marshall is no slouch in that category either, ranking No. 19 giving up 16 points per game.

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Podcast - Akron/Marshall preview: Can the Zips keep up with the Thundering Herd?

By Dan Kadar Published: September 17, 2014

After losing to Penn State 21-3 on Sept. 6, the Akron Zips host the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday at 2 p.m. How can Akron keep up with one of the nation's fastest offenses? Zips beat writer George Thomas breaks down that and more.

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Zips football: Sophomore RB may be in line for more action

By George Thomas Published: September 17, 2014

Akron Zips coach Terry Bowden sounds as if he’s looking for a little more pop in the team’s running game.

What exactly does that mean?   Don’t expect senior starter Jawon Chisholm to go anywhere.  Chisholm just needs to find a rhythm in a game to get going.  And Conor Hundley is a straight ahead back that fights for tough yards.

But Bowden would like to see Hakeem Lawrence, a speedy redshirt sophomore out of Florida, get some reps.

He said Lawrence, who played as a true freshman, but redshirted last season, was toughened up by the experience and that his hard work has earned him a look.  Then there’s the fact that he’s one of the two fastest players on the team, the coach said.

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Akron Zips football: Coach Terry Bowden on connection to Marshall

By George Thomas Published: September 16, 2014

With his West Virginia roots, it should be of little surprise that there are ties for the Bowden family to the Marshall Thundering Herd football program.

University of Akron football coach spoke about those ties – including his father Bobby’s portrayal in the movie We Are Marshall which told the story of the aftermath of the airplane crash involving the football team in November of 1970 – at his weekly press conference.

The Zips take on the Thundering Herd, a team expected to win Conference USA this year, that comes in averaging 44.7 points and over 600 yards of offense per game this Saturday at InfoCision Stadium.

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Zips football: RT Tommy Brown ruled eligible for season

By George Thomas Published: September 5, 2014

According to a University of Akron source, the NCAA ruled today that former Firestone High School standout and transfer from Ohio State, Tommy Brown, will be eliigbile for the season.

Brown, who sought a waiver after transferring to UA just prior to preseason camp, should provide help on the line.  

Brown, 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, is eligible to play against Penn State, but whether he will remains unclear. 

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Zips golf: Coach David Trainor receives three-year contract extension

By Deanna Stevens Published: September 5, 2014

Men’s golf coach David Trainor has received a contract extension through 2017, the University of Akron announced Friday. Trainor has led the team in 2011. Read the full news release below:

AKRON, Ohio -University of Akron men's golf head coach David Trainor has received a three-year contract extension, Director of Athletics Tom Wistrcill announced on Friday. The extension, which is pending approval by the UA Board of Trustees, will keep Trainor at the helm of the program through the 2017 season.

"We are excited about what Coach Trainor has done with the program over the last three seasons," Wistrcill said. "This extension is a reward for that performance and hard work, and shows our commitment to Coach Trainor as he builds our men's golf program towards a MAC Championship."

"I am thrilled with the committment that Tom Wistrcill, the Board of Trustees, and the University of Akron has made in me and our men's golf program," Trainor said. "My family and I have enjoyed our time in Akron, and look forward to leading this program in the future."

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Zips football: The other side - A look at UA vs. Penn State

By George Thomas Published: September 4, 2014

Many thanks to Nate Bauer [@NateBauerBWI] from BlueWhite Illustrated, a site, for taking the time to provide some perspective about Penn State and what the Akron Zips can expect when they invade Happy Valley Saturday for a game that will be televised on ABC (WEWS Channel 5) Saturday.

Q: How does James Franklin differ from Bill O'Brien? Was a culture change necessary? Or were there just tweaks?

A: In terms of personality, they couldn’t be more different. O’Brien liked to have fun, but his general demeanor was typically pretty gruff and hard to crack. His players and staff generally loved him though. Franklin’s players and staff also love him, but his outward persona is effervescent, he’s always got a smile plastered on his face and to the general public, he’s infinitely more approachable than O’Brien.

Within the program, though, both coaches did and do many of the same things. There is a renewed vigor at Penn State that had faded toward the end of Joe Paterno’s tenure, and many of the kicks in the pants O’Brien brought to the program have simply been furthered by Franklin. One area that has seen a dramatic improvement, however, is in recruiting. No doubt, O’Brien was working under the constraints of NCAA sanctions against the program that made recruiting a nearly impossible game both in quality and quantity, but now that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, Franklin has absolutely shot out of a cannon and has made strides in both areas.

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Zips football: Keys to the game - UA vs. the Penn State Nittany Lions

By George Thomas Published: September 4, 2014

Once again, the Akron Zips will face one of those Power 5 conference teams – Penn State - in a matchup that could raise the program’s profile.

Is there upset potential there?  What applies on any given Sunday also is relevant for any given Saturday.  Coach Terry Bowden has said that a team grows faster between games one and two than at any other point in the season.  Here’s where we see whether that is the case.    Here are the primary keys to the game:

Though impressive, ignore Pohl’s numbers [62 percent completions, 308 yards, four TDs] from the win over Howard University.  He took a big step toward assuming ownership of the Zips after enduring an extremely lackluster second quarter against the Bison.  It was during the lull with UA up by 21and Howard blitzing from all over the place.  Yes, they held the Zips scoreless, but in the third quarter Pohl, who took the blame for that period of time, came right back in the second half to put the offense on track.  It showed leadership – definitive leadership.   However, his offensive line, which is still gelling, will have to solidify faster to take on a defensive line featuring Deion Barnes and Anthony Zettel, who, along with linebacker Brandon Bell, combined for five tackles for loss.  As of this posting, there was still no word on right tackle Tommy Brown, who was listed as the No. 1 right tackle prior to the start of the season, and his waiver application from the NCAA.

This is the one area that could be picked apart last week.  Take away Pohl’s 48 yards of rushing and the running game – to be generous – was ineffective.  The running backs combined for 21 carries for 65 yards. Starter Jawon Chisholm couldn’t get into a rhythm.  It could help that he’s going home this weekend – he played high school football in Harrisburg.  The reality is he and backup Conor Hundley will have to run well enough to keep Penn State off their game because Bowden is expecting more, telling media he wants prefers five yards per carry to two.  He is, however, pragmatic.

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Zips football: QB Kyle Pohl wins second award in a week

By George Thomas Published: September 4, 2014

It’s been a good week for University of Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl.

In addition to being selected Mid-American Conference offensive player of the week for the East Division earlier this week, Thursday he was chosen MAC male scholar athlete of the week.

Pohl currently holds a 3.75 grade point average and is majoring in exercise science. 

In the 41-0 shutout victory over Howard, Pohl led the Zips with a career-high four touchdown passes on 23-of-36 passing for 308 yards. He threw three touchdown passes in the first six minutes of action, as each scoring drive was under 38 seconds. Pohl led all rushers with a career-high 48 yards on seven carries.

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Zips basketball: MAC and UA announce women's 2014-15 schedule

By George Thomas Published: September 3, 2014

Sat, Nov. 8 – Ursuline College#
Fri., Nov. 14 – Binghamton^
Sat., Nov. 15 – Northern Kentucky^
Tues., Nov. 18 – Northern Iowa
Tues., Nov. 25 – Valparaiso
Fri., Nov. 28 – vs. Belmont%
Sat., Nov. 29 – vs. Denver or Siena%
Fri., Dec. 5 – Morehead State
Mon., Dec. 15 – at Bethune-Cookman
Wed., Dec. 17 – at UCF
Sat., Dec. 20 – Ohio Christian
Mon., Dec. 29 – at Youngstown State
Sat., Jan. 3 – at Western Michigan*
Wed., Jan. 7 – Bowling Green*
Sat., Jan. 10 – Eastern Michigan*
Wed., Jan. 14 – at Toledo*
Sat., Jan. 17 – at Miami (Ohio)*
Wed., Jan. 21 – Ball State*
Sat., Jan. 24 – at Central Michigan*
Wed., Jan. 28 – at Ohio*
Sat., Jan. 31 – Kent State*
Wed., Feb. 4 – Western Michigan*
Sat., Feb. 7 – at Northern Illinois*
Wed., Feb. 11 – Buffalo*
Sat., Feb. 14 – Toledo*
Sat., Feb. 21 – Ohio*
Wed., Feb. 25 – at Kent State*
Sat., Feb. 28 – at Buffalo*
Wed., March 4 – Miami (Ohio)*
Sat., March 7 – at Bowling Green*
Mon., March 9 – MAC Tournament (campus sites)
March 11-14 – MAC Tournament (Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland)

# – Exhibition
^ – 2014 Akron Classic (Akron, Ohio)
% – 2014 Denver Thanksgiving Tournament (Denver, Colo.)  
* – Mid-American Conference game

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Zips basketball: MAC announces men's 2014-15 schedule

By George Thomas Published: September 3, 2014

The Mid-American Conference and University of Akron announced the men's basketball team's 2014-15 schedule Wednesday

Mon, Nov. 10 – Rochester College (Mich.)#
Fri., Nov. 14 – UMBC
Thurs., Nov. 20 – vs. USC (ESPN3)^
Fri., Nov. 21 – vs. Drexel or Miami (Fla.) (ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3)^
Sun., Nov. 23 – TBD (ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3)^
Tues., Nov. 25 – at Penn State
Sun., Nov. 30 – Bryant
Tues., Dec. 2 – Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Thurs., Dec. 4 – Western Illinois
Sat., Dec. 13 – Middle Tennessee
Tues., Dec. 16 – at North Dakota State
Sat., Dec. 20 – Bluffton
Tues., Dec. 30 – Marshall
Sat., Jan. 3 – Coppin State
Tues., Jan. 6 – Western Michigan*
Fri., Jan. 9 – at Toledo*
Wed., Jan. 14 – Bowling Green*
Sat., Jan. 17 – Central Michigan*
Wed., Jan. 21 – at Northern Illinois*
Sat., Jan. 24 – at Western Michigan*
Tues., Jan. 27 – Ball State*
Sat., Jan. 31 – at Bowling Green*
Wed., Feb. 4 – at Ohio*
Sat., Feb. 7 – Buffalo*
Tues., Feb. 10 – Kent State*
Sat., Feb. 14 – at Eastern Michigan*
Wed., Feb. 18 – Toledo*
Sat., Feb. 21 – Miami (Ohio)*
Tues., Feb. 24 – at Buffalo*
Sat., Feb. 28 – Ohio*
Tues., March 3 – at Miami (Ohio)*
Fri., March 6 – at Kent State*
Mon., March 9 – MAC Tournament (campus sites)
March 11-14 – MAC Tournament (Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland)

# – Exhibition
^ – 2014 Gildan Charleston Classic (Charleston, S.C.)
* – Mid-American Conference game

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Podcast: Does Akron have a chance of beating Penn State on Saturday?

By Dan Kadar Published: September 3, 2014
Penn St UFC Football_Kada

Akron Beacon Journal Zips beat writer George Thomas breaks down the team's game against Howard and looks ahead to Saturday against Penn State. Do the Zips have a chance to upset the Nittany Lions? How will Akron stop Penn State's budding star quarterback Christian Hackenberg?

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