The University of Akron offense did its part in keeping the game competitive in a 27-20 loss to Northern Illinois, but the defense also had a hand in the Zips’ efforts against the No. 23 Huskies on Saturday.
NIU came into the game averaging 42.5 points per game and quarterback Jordan Lynch was averaging 222.6 yards through the air and another 106.6 yards on the ground. Lynch played well enough to help the Huskies win, but the Zips’ defense can be commended for holding him in check.
He completed just 16-of-35 passes for 220 yards and rushed for 83 yards.
“[Taking] a team that’s averaging 42 points,” coach Terry Bowden said, “you have to give great credit to the defense.”
Lynch got his share, but he didn’t get more than that. Linebacker Jatavis Brown led the Zips with 15 tackles.
Bowden fully expected his offense to match the Huskies point for point, and the Zips almost succeeded, falling behind 17-14 at halftime.
In the second half, the Huskies took over. The offense faced a number of problems, drops, struggling in the run game and a rush on quarterback Kyle Pohl, who completed 24-of-56 passes for 262 yards with a touchdown and interception, Bowden said.
“What we would have liked is to run a bit better so you can get out of long yardage [situations],” Bowden said after Monday morning’s practice. “The offense matched them early. When we had to, we almost matched them offensively.”
Some would lay the blame for the loss on the play of Pohl, who is 35-of-82 for 42.6 percent in the past two games.
Bowden said that’s not the issue.
“We thought he played very well under the circumstances, based on what was presented to him,” he said.
That includes the Huskies’ constant pressure.
Pohl was victimized by the play of his receivers and his own mistakes.
Bowden counted at least five passes that receivers dropped during the course of the game. However, Pohl appears to be having accuracy issues in especially the past couple of games, be it missing receivers completely or short-arming them.
“When he misses something it’s because mechanically he does something wrong,” Bowden said. “He’s a sophomore, he’s got to continue to get better. We’re not displeased with his effort or his attitude.”
Ultimately, Bowden said it’s a matter of Pohl growing as a starter.
One of Pohl’s problems just might have been the loss of left guard Henry Orelus, who left the game with an ankle injury. Orelus practiced Monday, but his ankle was heavily wrapped.
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.