On any given Saturday in college football, there’s usually a David who pelts a Goliath in the eye, felling the giant.
University of Akron coach Terry Bowden reiterated that fact by pointing to Western Kentucky’s upset of Kentucky last week. With the Zips set to face Tennessee of the SEC at 7:30 tonight at Neyland Stadium, they can use all of the positive reinforcement they can get.
Instead of David, they could be the proverbial lamb being led to slaughter. That could be more up to the Volunteers than the Zips.
Tennessee is coming off a huge loss in which the Vols blew a third-quarter lead and gave up 24 unanswered points to Florida last Saturday. Add the fact that Tennessee will play SEC rival Georgia next week and the Vols could indeed be ripe for an upset.
“You don’t know if you’re happy that they lost or sad that they lost,” Bowden said. “They’re a much-improved team.
“[But] we believe we can win this football game. You don’t have to talk about once in a decade. … Every week a team beats another team that it’s not supposed to beat.”
Bowden is realistic, knowing the Vols have an advantage in ability, size and speed. But he also knows what the Zips will need to do to win.
The Vols are loaded with talent, especially at quarterback. Many believe 6-foot-6 junior Tyler Bray has pro potential. He’s big (obviously) with a strong arm. He wasn’t particularly impressive against the Gators, completing 22-of-44 passes for 257 yards, two touchdowns and his first two interceptions of the season.
“You can’t give him a lot of time to stand back there,” Bowden said.
“What they’ll do is play action and hit the fast guy down the field. You have to do a great job of covering and not fall asleep and jump on the ball when they run it. We’ve got to get to that quarterback.”
He was harassed more than normal during last week’s game, according to reports, so it’s going to be up to the Zips’ defensive front of J.D. Griggs, Nico Caponi, Albert Presley and Cody Grice to get some pressure on him to create turnovers.
Secondly, playing to the Zips’ defensive strength, they have to cover in passing situations. Tennessee’s two starting receivers — Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter — are at least 6-foot-2, as is their starting tight end Mychal Rivera.
Stopping the offense will be a tough task considering the Vols average more than 35 points per game.
If the Zips are going to have any shot of winning this game, it might have to be done on offense. The Zips average 39 points per game. No one is going to confuse Morgan State, the team UA beat last week, with Tennessee, but the Zips did tie or set eight offensive records and it seems they are easing their way into a groove.
The Vols give up close to 24 points per game on defense.
UA quarterback Dalton Williams has a strong grasp of Bowden’s system and he’s shown the ability to put points on the board against quality opponents.
“He’ll get awfully worn out if he has to throw it every time and think about every read and if he’s a stationary target every time, they’ll put a lot of hits on him,” Bowden said.
“We have to throw and catch. We have to protect the quarterback. We have to get as much of our running game as possible.”
Bowden said winning depends on his team.
“We can’t dictate whether they’re going to play their best or whether they’re going to overlook us, whether they’re going to turn the ball over,” he said.
“We might need some of those things for us to be successful, but we can [only] control the way we play.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.