Time to move on.
That’s the simple message coming from UA football coach Terry Bowden and his staff after beating Kent State almost two weeks ago. That’s a lot of time to be able to bask in victory, but the Zips have to concentrate on a foe that many observers thought they’d beat last season — UMass.
Instead, the Zips committed five turnovers and chalked up another “L” toward their third consecutive 1-11 season. It’s easy to believe that his team might have been overconfident heading into that game, primarily because the Minutemen had gone winless in FBS football since taking the leap upward for the 2012 season.
Bowden shot that premise down in an instant.
“To me when you go in there and turn the ball over it’s a lack of deep-down confidence more than anything else,” he said in a Wednesday news conference. “I think when you doubt yourself … we had five turnovers. [Quarterback] Dalton [Williams] didn’t have one of his best days. We got beat by them because we turned the ball over five times and gave them the chance to get ahead of us.”
The Zips lost 22-14, giving the Minutemen their first FBS victory.
“I think there’s too much of a history of being an underdog and losing to be overconfident,” Bowden said of the Zips. “Even our wins have been down to the wire and I can’t wait until we get to the point where that [overconfidence] is [in] my pregame speech.”
The Minutemen (1-8, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) will host the Zips (3-7, 2-4) for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday in a similar situation as last year, having won just one game and looking like easy pickings. But a glance of their nonconference schedule shows that they’ve played some tough teams, including Wisconsin and Kansas State.
“I think our team understands how to win football games,” Bowden said. “We’ve got to expect to play hard four quarters and try to outlast a team.”
In the spotlight
For the Zips to outlast UMass, they will need to do so at a venue that, although relatively new (11 years old), possesses a storied history.
The New England Patriots call Gillette Stadium home and it has an aura courtesy of the Patriots’ success there. Bowden acknowledged that getting to play there adds to a player’s experience.
“It’s an exciting venue and I think the college football experience that our young men get allows them to go into the Big House [Michigan Stadium] and going to Tennessee [Neyland Stadium] to play, now going into Gillette Stadium,” he said. “We look forward to playing in that venue. To think of the great players that have played there, to be on that field, it’s exciting.”
But the field will force the team to adapt because of narrow hash marks and numbers not being in the same place as a college field.
“You have to look at the field a little differently because of the way it’s numbered and hashed, but that’s just something you’ll be able to pick up when the game plays,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting, but the biggest and most important part is that we’ve played fairly well on the road and we need to play well on the road again to beat this team.”
The Zips just happen to be getting their running game in rhythm as they prepare to face one of the lowest-ranked run defenses in the MAC. UMass is No. 11, giving up more than 240 yards per game.
In the past three games — two wins — the Zips averaged 155.3 yards per game with starting running back Jawon Chisholm responsible for most of it with 402 yards. Nearly two weeks of rest should also lend itself to a refreshed corps of backs.
“We’ve got to mix the run in with the pass. That’s been one of the reasons we’ve won two of the last three games, the running game has been improved,” Bowden said.
Chisholm can take credit for much of that improvement.
“I think he’s really staying north-south more,” Bowden said. “He’s a cutback runner, a bounce runner. One cut is OK, but then it’s got to be north and south … and don’t get sideways too much. He’s cutting back but he’s getting north and south quicker. It’s something he’s had to work on doing. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
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.