The rain made for a big, slick mess at InfoCision Stadium for much of the afternoon Saturday.
The play on the field from the University of Akron proved even messier. At halftime, the game’s outcome was decided. Ohio led 30-3 on its way to a 43-3 Mid-American Conference victory.
“We just made mistake after mistake after mistake in every phase of our game early,” UA coach Terry Bowden said, “and they took advantage of those opportunities and scored. Once it started it was just like the pouring rain.”
Actually the outcome might have been foreshadowed on UA’s first would-be possession. After the Zips’ defense stopped the Bobcats and forced a punt, the Zips’ Imani Davis received the ball and fumbled it inside the Zips’ 10 yard-line. In the ensuing scramble, UA recovered the ball in the end zone. The Bobcats took a 2-0 lead on the safety and barely looked back with any worry.
That’s because a familiar bugaboo — the dreaded slow start — continued to haunt the Zips along with a host of other things.
Penalties? Almost 100 yards came before the end of the first half, including multiple flags for unsportsmanlike conduct. UA had 135 yards on 12 penalties in the game.
“That was frustration,” Bowden said. “We’ve got to overcome that. Our guys have to understand we can’t get frustrated out there and have penalties like that.”
The running game? It continued to struggle as the Zips found themselves once again chasing points because of the slow start. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been so bad had the Zips’ offense been able to establish anything in the passing game.
But that wasn’t meant to be either. The Ohio defense harassed Zips quarterback Kyle Pohl into an 11-of-26 passing effort for 101 yards. Bowden didn’t hesitate when asked what troubled him most about Saturday’s game.
“Our inability to effectively throw the football,” he said. “We’re a throwing-football team and we didn’t seem to get people open. They did a great job of taking away our passing game.”
Ohio’s No. 4-ranked MAC defense recorded eight sacks with defensive lineman Ty Branz accounting for 2½ and did not allow the Zips to get into any sort of rhythm. UA managed just 157 yards of offense.
The Bobcats took the Zips offense out early and, although the defense stopped the Bobcats on their first three possessions, they eventually found rhythm of their own beginning with the fourth, scoring on a five-play, 56-yard drive.
A familiar problem revealed itself on the drive’s key play.
Facing a third-and-1 on the Zips’ 47, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton (14-of-21 for 171 yards and two touchdowns) worked a play-action pass to perfection. He faked the handoff, dropped back and found wide receiver Anthony Talbert open for a 29-yard gain. Two plays later, Ohio’s Donte Foster scored on a 13-yard pass from Tettleton.
Things continued rolling downhill from there for UA.
Bowden said the game wasn’t a step back, but he offered that it certainly wasn’t a step forward either.
Is he worried about what the lopsided score could do to his team’s psyche?
“Not big picture,” he said. “Not at all. I want our guys to win some games and get better. I’m disappointed in this game.”
With a road game against Northern Illinois coming up next week, this might not have been the best time to struggle in all phases of the game.
Still Bowden remained upbeat.
“You can’t play your best every week, unfortunately. It happens,” he said. “When you play bad against a good team, you lose. If you look around the country you’ll see teams have to come back from bad games like this. We have to do it and we will.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.