University of Akron football coach Terry Bowden doesn’t hesitate when asked what he fears most in today’s game against Bowling Green.
To say this game will be interesting might be an understatement considering it pits the Mid-American Conference’s top defense against its top offense.
“Defensively, they’ve been very consistently good,” Bowden said of the Falcons. “They’re clearly the best [we’ll] play. They’re another level of defense for our conference.”
Here’s how today’s game breaks down:
When UA has the ball
Offense hasn’t been the Zips’ problem since the second game of the season. Quarterback Dalton Williams averages 335.8 yards per game passing and the Zips average 38.6 points per game. The offensive line has done its job all season, allowing just six sacks. That’s equal to the number of sacks by Falcons defensive tackle Chris Jones, who Bowden singled out as a concern for his team.
But the pressure might fall in the most unlikely of places today, the Zips’ running game.
“We have to stay balanced and keep them from stopping the run, so that we can get our passing game going,” Bowden said.
That means that running back Jawon Chisholm will have to step up as he did in a losing effort against Miami, racking up 156 yards on 21 carries, and the rest of the running back committee, Conor Hundley and Quentin Hines, will also have to share responsibility.
More than anything, Bowden will be looking to maximize offensive opportunities.
“You look at them and you always try to have a wrinkle or two that we emphasize that might grab a drive or two,” he said. “Can I steal a touchdown here or steal a touchdown there with a wrinkle that they’ve shown a vulnerability to?”
When BG has the ball
Despite being victimized by Tennessee and Miami, the Zips’ defense could be in a prime position to put together a big game.
Falcons junior quarterback Matt Schilz hasn’t lit things up yet this season, tossing four interceptions and just three touchdown passes, and the Falcons are ranked 11th in the conference in offense. The passing game could provide opportunities for UA defensive ends J.D. Griggs and Albert Presley to use their speed to get to Schilz. The Falcons are ranked 10th in the conference in giving up sacks. Griggs is having a standout season. As defensive coordinator Chuck Amato said this week: “He’s playing like he wants to go to the NFL.”
The defensive line continues to improve on a weekly basis. Additionally, the Falcons struggle in the red zone, scoring just 55 percent of the time (11-of-20). The game offers the UA defense a shot at redemption.
Bowden summed it up rather succinctly.
“This is a big game,” he said.
UA will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark policy that changed collegiate sports for women, prior to the game at the FirstMerit Foundation Club Level at InfoCision Stadium.
The event will feature speaking appearances by former Zips’ individual national champions Christi Smith (track & field) and Jenna Compton (rifle), and others. Multiple Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and author Connie Dieken will emcee the event.
It’s free to the public and doors will open at 11 a.m.
The Zips and Falcons are meeting for the first time since Nov. 22, 2009 (a game won by the Falcons), and the Falcons venture to Akron for the first time since Oct. 11, 2008 (another game won by the Falcons) … The Zips have 17 touchdowns through the air, just seven off the school record of 24 passing touchdowns in a season set during the 2005 season.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.