It’s inching closer, coach Terry Bowden suspects.
But it’s clear that it won’t be easy for the University of Akron football team to make the leap it could.
The team spent much of last season losing close games, playing the likes of Tennessee, Ohio University and Kent State tight for much of their games only to come up just short in the end.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing and don’t waffle in close games, then you start winning those close games,” Bowden, UA’s second-year coach, said after speaking at the Akron Roundtable’s monthly luncheon. “You get confidence and you start pulling away. You never know if that’s going to take one year, two years, three years, but you’re heading in that direction.”
Logically, winning some of the close ones should be next. But it won’t be easy for the Zips to get there, Bowden said.
“The problem is our schedule last year was tough,” he said. “It’s only tougher this year — [several] conference champions. Our non-conference went from tough to very, very tough.”
An ascending Michigan replaces a down Tennessee on the schedule. The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off a victory in a bowl game, and, of course, the Zips play the usual suspects in the Mid-American Conference.
The Zips are trying to get help to ensure that they have the personnel to compete with their opponents, including several transfer students.
Among those who are supposed to come is Colorado transfer Nick Hirschman, a quarterback. Hirschman leaves Colorado after graduating in three years, according to reports. He comes to the Zips with two years of eligibility remaining.
More importantly, he can push presumed starter Kyle Pohl to elevate his game.
Hirschman left the Buffaloes as the team’s co-starter, completing 73-of-128 passes for 781 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions. If Bowden is true to form, he will have an open competition once camp begins.
The defensive line gets some depth with the expected addition of lineman Moses McCray from Florida State University.
The 6-foot-2 , 340-pound lineman gives the defensive line some much-needed depth.
More importantly, he possesses the size to help bolster a run defense that had its share of holes.
“We don’t have a strong senior class overall,” Bowden said. “You get a couple of transfers to now help your underclassmen to give them that time to redshirt and grow without having to play too much.”
The right additions could allow the Zips to take that next step.
Without being solicited, Bowden made a push for the basketball program to get a new facility to replace Rhodes Arena, which is 30 years old.
“I, too, want to be part of the Akron big picture. I can keep my nose to the grindstone. I don’t have to look up or look down. I just have to go try to win ballgames,” he said.
“Keith [Dambrot] has now got them to a successful level where if he wants to attract the premier athlete, he needs a premier facility. If we want to be poised to do what he wants to do … it [Rhodes Arena] needs to be replaced.”
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.