Well rested and back at work, the University of Akron football team will venture to Gillette Stadium, home of the UMass Minutemen today. Oh, and a little team known as the New England Patriots plays there as well.
Coming off the high of beating Kent State, the Zips will need to get back to an even keel to take on a team that grabbed its first FBS victory against them last season at InfoCision Stadium, a game in which the Zips turned the ball over five times.
Is there a revenge factor?
“I don’t know if there’s any special motivation,” UA coach Terry Bowden said. “When you watch that game, we turned the ball over five times [and] totally didn’t give ourselves a chance to win that game. I’m more disappointed in us and the way we played.”
Earlier this week, Bowden bristled when asked whether his team went into that game overconfident, saying that it was unlikely a one-win team would feel that way.
“I think everybody sees us as a chance to get a victory, and so we take this game very seriously,” Bowden said. “We have fought hard. We know what we’ve got to do this game and we know we’ve got to play our best to win any games.”
The reality is that after winning two of their past three, the Zips find themselves in a different situation — being a touchdown favorite according to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas.
As for actual motivation? He showed the team last year’s game film to remind the Zips what happens when they don’t play to their potential.
Motivation or not, here’s what the Zips will need to do to beat the Minutemen:
As far as rankings in the Mid-American Conference, the offensive performance could stand improvement for UMass. The Minutemen average 11.6 points per game. It’s been a case of musical chairs at quarterback. Mike Wegzyn opened the season as the starter only to get benched six quarters later in favor of A.J. Doyle, who played inconsistently. The passing game is ranked 12th in the MAC, but the offensive line appears solid, giving up only nine sacks this season.
The Zips’ front seven will have to have some success against the UMass offensive line if the Zips want to win. The Zips will be at full strength with their defensive line rotation as linebacker C.J. Mizell is back from a hamstring injury. That rushing defense will need to work on keeping the Minutemen’s 11th-ranked rushing offense in check. The key to the game defensively comes down to not giving up big plays and easy scores.
The UMass defense is a different story.
“Their defense has been a strong point,” Bowden said. “They haven’t scored as many points, but their defense, especially their pass defense … they’re ranked third in the conference. We have to be able to pass the ball against them along with running the football will be a challenge as well.”
This very well might be a case of running to set up the pass. If running backs Jawon Chisholm (402 yards and four touchdowns the past three games) can get things going early along with sophomore Conor Hundley, they could help to make it a very long afternoon for UMass if its defense has to bring more men into the box to stop the run. If the Zips are able to help open things up for quarterback Kyle Pohl, some big gains to wide receivers L.T. Smith and Zach D’Orazio might be in the offing.
Overall, the key could be just cleaning up mistakes.
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.