University of Akron football coach Terry Bowden expressed concern with the Zips’ field-goal kicking during his Tuesday afternoon news conference.
Missing 17-yard chip shots will cause coaches to worry.
Sophomore kicker Robert Stein missed that close-range scoring opportunity with Bowling Green ahead 24-14 with slightly more than 12 minutes left in Saturday’s game.
Make the kick and the Zips are within one touchdown of at least being able to tie the score in a game they had led 14-3 in the first quarter.
Instead, Stein’s kick bounced rather forcefully off the left upright and plunked to the ground.
Field goals have been a problem in the past three games for Stein. He missed 2-of-3 at Michigan, six points that could have been the difference in the game. He also flubbed on 2-of-5 against Louisiana-Lafayette in a 35-30 loss.
He will remain the Zips’ kicker because freshman Zach Gingerich has suffered hamstring issues.
But Bowden understands that, much like wide receivers, kickers live on an island unlike most of the rest of the team.
“Robert Stein has the ability, he just has to get out of the mist,” Bowden said. “We have to keep his confidence up, give him at-bats at practice and make a decision during the game about what to do. That’s a shot he hits every day, it’s a chip shot.”
Bowden said Stein enjoyed a productive day of practice Tuesday.
“He doesn’t show any lack of confidence,” he said. “A quarterback can’t afford to lose confidence when he throws an interception and a kicker can’t afford to do that.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson spent a lot of time running around in the first half, as the Zips sacked him six times. C.J. James claimed three of those sacks and had eight tackles from his defensive end spot.
The problem is that the Zips had no sacks in the second half.
Bowden gave much credit to the fact that the Falcons went to maximum protection in the second half and rolled Johnson out most of the time when he dropped back to pass. However, they faced their own challenges as well.
“People got banged up a little bit and we lost our rotation,” he said. “[Nordly] Capi couldn’t go and he’s one of our best.”
In a lot of cases, coaches scream to motivate players. Bowden took a different path in practice, courtesy of a colleague. During Monday’s Mid-American Conference coaches’ teleconference, Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson had high praise for the Zips and their effort Saturday.
Clawson said that it is just a matter of when and not if UA begins winning games consistently.
“I read it to the kids and it’s important to know that they have the respect of their opponents,” Bowden said of the praise. “Now we’ve got to go out there and play four quarters. They have to continue to let us get angry with them and get on them and push and keep their spirits up and they did a good job today.”
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.