The University of Akron football wrapped up its spring practice Saturday afternoon at InfoCision with its annual Blue-Gold Game, which ended in a 3-3 tie.
Some Zips likely improved their status for the fall, but there will be plenty for coach Terry Bowden and his staff to address in the coming weeks.
In a format that featured the first-team offense against the first-team defense and the second teams against their counterparts for much of the game, the defenses proved dominant, giving up just three points in the first half.
They produced stops on several key third- and fourth-down plays, but most noticeably a defensive line that had a couple of noteworthy players to replace harassed and disrupted the quarterbacks for much of the day.
If it holds through the fall, defensive coordinator Chuck Amato will have plenty for which to look forward.
The defenses virtually eliminated a glaring hole that presented itself during spring practices — big plays — giving up four for just 25 yards or more.
The offensive units found points difficult to come by.
Used to hitting those big plays in spring practices, quarterbacks Kyle Pohl, Nick Hirschman and Tommy Woodson were unable to develop any offensive flow when they had the chance to move their teams.
Hirschman led two of four decent drives, including a 55-yard strike to Andrew Pratt.
The offense, however, couldn’t punch it in from the 10-yard line, a problem that it had throughout spring in the red zone.
Bowden attributed much of the offensive struggles to the play of the defense.
“We saw what happens when we have an offense that does make big plays,” he said, referencing a recent scrimmage in which the offense scored virtually at will.
He didn’t sound too worried.
Amato said he was pleased as well, but said that this wasn’t all there is to the Zips’ defense.
“We played very vanilla,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of thinking.”
What was noticeable offensively is that the right side of the No. 1 offensive line, with Cedric Brittnum at tackle and Joe McNamara at guard, opened a few holes early in the game that allowed running back Conor Hundley to be effective.
Bowden said the fact that there were no major breakdowns at the tackle positions for the first unit surprised and pleased him. He also offered praise to starting quarterback Pohl.
“Kyle Pohl consistently put the ball where he needed to put the ball,” he said.
Nmesoma Okafor, a senior defensive lineman, sacked quarterbacks four times and caused the offense to commit a holding penalty on another. Four sacks in a spring game isn’t the same as regular season, but he stood out.
Amato said that Okafor still has some way to go in learning the Zips’ system, but didn’t discount his play.
“He’s going to help us even if it’s just in the passing game,” he said.
One of last year’s starting defensive ends, Nordly Capi produced two consecutive sacks to stifle a drive. His speed proved to be a problem.
There will be issues to resolve over the summer, including a kicking game that was less than stellar. Bowden said more competition might be in the offing for the fall. From now until the beginning of August, the team is on its own.
He wants to see how the Zips use that time.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.