If University of Akron football fans want to look ahead to where they would like to be several years from now, they just have to cast an eye toward in-state rival Ohio.
The Zips will get a look at the Bobcats on the field at 2 p.m. Saturday at Peden Stadium.
The Bobcats (6-0, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) have stayed undefeated not through sheer skill — though that has something to do with it — but with grit and guile as well.
The Bobcats have suffered through a series of injuries, yet still managed to win. The most serious injury forced starting quarterback Tyler Tettleton to the sideline with what was termed an abdomen injury, according to reports.
His replacement, Derrius Vick, didn’t miss a beat, completing 14-of-30 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns.
“I think we have good backup players,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said on a teleconference call this week. “I think we have more guys in our program that can play and that are supplying us depth than we ever have.”
And it hasn’t been limited to Tettleton’s backup. The Bobcats have been playing through a series of bumps and bruises and haven’t been affected yet.
“The expectations now are that when you step onto the field, you need to do your part regardless of whether you’re talking an offensive unit, defensive unit or special teams unit or whether you’re talking a first-team individual or second-team individual,” Solich said. “And our guys have responded to that.”
Their depth has helped to carry the Bobcats. The Zips (1-5, 0-2) don’t have that luxury.
Bowling Green took advantage of UA’s lack of depth in a 24-10 win last week.
When Zips defensive tackle Nico Caponi left the game with a sprained ankle, the Falcons’ offensive line and running backs went straight for his spot. In the second half, Bowling Green rushed for more than 200 yards.
Because of that, UA coach Terry Bowden and his staff are being very careful as to how the Zips practice, going in helmets and shoulder pads during Tuesday morning’s session.
“[It’s] so we can put the 11 best players on the field,” Bowden said. “We have to be very conscious of that. We have to be careful and do the best with what we’ve got. We have to get those kids as healthy and ready to play as possible Saturday.”
Caponi is out
Bowden confirmed Tuesday that Caponi will miss Saturday’s game with that sprained ankle.
“It’s enough for him to miss the ballgame and instead of practicing, he’s missing practice and getting treatment every day,” Bowden said.
Getting out in front
If the Zips expect to beat the Bobcats, the best way might be to get ahead and keep piling on offensively, taking advantage of Bowden’s fast-paced offense.
According to Solich, his Bobcats have started slowly in several games, including a come-from-behind win against Buffalo last week in which they fell behind by two touchdowns.
He doesn’t have an easy solution.
“If it was easy to fix, we would have fixed it by now,” Solich said. “I think we’ve gotten off to a slow start in three of our first five games and so we’re addressing that, talking about it and we’re trying to get a mindset to hopefully change that.”
In addition to Caponi, defensive end Albert Presley and wide receiver Tyrell Goodman are also out.
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.