The University of Akron’s game against Morgan State today is less about putting on a good show than a shift in expectations for the team.
UA coach Terry Bowden voiced his expectations earlier this week when he said that he wants his team to come out fired up, hungry and on the winning end of the game that kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at InfoCision Stadium.
But it likely won’t be as easy as that.
Though Morgan State is a Football Championship Subdivision (FBS) school, the Zips should be wary of the Bears, who are 1-1, including an overtime win.
“Defensively, they’re going to be a challenge. They average 32 points per game,” Bowden said. “They beat Sacred Heart in overtime, which shows that they don’t quit.”
They also have a workhorse running back. Travis Davidson has 48 carries for 243 yards, a 5.1 average, to lead the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Considering that the Zips are giving up more than 200 yards per game, they will have to be on guard.
It’s difficult to take anything out of a loss, but Zips fans can take solace in knowing that after last week’s shootout against Florida International, the offense, guided by current MAC East Division Player of the Week Dalton Williams, is soaking in Bowden’s system.
They hope to continue that against a defense that gives up more than 265 yards per game.
This is one of those weeks when the receivers should work to cure themselves of the drops and take advantage of the Bears’ weaknesses.
Williams has shown that he can execute Bowden’s offense.
Today’s game also represents an opportunity for the running backs to establish themselves. Bowden is still trying to settle on who his top two might be as the team gets closer to the MAC season.
“Everybody is still doing some good things. [Jawon] Chisholm came out and had two good catches [last week],” Bowden said. “He has good hands, runs well and catches well downfield. Conor Hundley has some powerful runs. In my mind, I think I’m seeing some direction there.”
But the ultimate goal remains victory.
“We have to get better. We have to go out there and play our best football,” Bowden said. “Obviously our kids know they’re not playing Central Florida, but we have to play better because this team is good enough to line up and beat you if you don’t.”
On special teams
The Zips elevated their punt return game last week, moving up to 27th nationally and second in the MAC, averaging 14.29 yards per return. Unfortunately, Bowden is still waiting for players to step up on the punt coverage team. Currently, at least two top-tier defensive players work on that unit. Bowden said he’s talked to younger players about the need for them to step up.
“This is your year to develop because we don’t have a strong 85 as far as being ready to play,” he said. “For us to have [Justin] March starting on the punt team where you can get cut, you can get cracked and get hurt, you’d like to have him and [Kurt] Mangum not play on your starting punt team if you can get them off. We can’t take them off.”
The starting time for the game at Tennessee is officially set for 7:30 p.m. … The Zips go into today’s game reasonably healthy. Starting left tackle Jarrod Pughsley is walking and presumably practicing without a limp.
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.