It looked all too familiar for the University of Akron in Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando, Fla., in their season opener Thursday night against Central Florida.
The Knights rolled over the Zips 38-7 in a game that for one brief moment held the possibility that things might at least be interesting this time around. Last year the Knights beat the Zips 56-14 at InfoCision Stadium.
On the first play of scrimmage the Zips’ Nico Caponi sacked UCF quarterback Blake Bortles for an eight-yard loss. It took but one play for Bortles and his Knights to erase that memory.
Dropping back from his 8-yard line, Bortles found a wide open Breshad Perriman behind Zips cornerback Emmanuel Lartey. He raced to the end zone for the score.
From then on it devolved into a show for the Knights.
Bortles connected on 18-of-24 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Storm Johnson picked up 99 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the Zips couldn’t come close to that offensive production as sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl struggled with 16-of-21 passing for 98 yards and an interception on a pass that he shouldn’t have thrown.
However, credit the Knights with not allowing Pohl to get untracked in any form or fashion. When it looked as if he might, they stifled any such notion.
But it’s not difficult to see what coach Terry Bowden and his offensive staff attempted to do as they started Pohl off with safe, conservative passes to build his confidence early on.
That would have helped had the Zips been able to develop and sustain any type of running game. But until mop-up time, that part of the offense struggled as well, as junior running back Jawon Chisholm rushed for a meager 10 yards on 11 carries.
Overall it wasn’t pretty.
The Zips were their own worst enemy on the night. Bowden said going into the game the team needed to avoid penalties, turnovers and giving up big plays.
That trifecta didn’t hit, as the Zips gave up the ball on a fumble and an interception and surrendered long touchdowns of 91 and 39 yards, respectively.
Was there anything good to take from this game and build on? Yes.
Despite giving up those big plays when the defense found a groove, they showed that there’s plenty of potential there.
Caponi had three sacks, and Moses McCray, the man backing up Caponi, also made his presence felt a couple of times.
The good news for the Zips is that they have more than a week to prepare for the arrival of James Madison on Sept. 7 in the home opener.
If the effort Thursday proved anything, it’s that teams aren’t built in a season.