The message to take from today’s game between the University of Akron and UMass is that looks can be deceiving.
At least that is what Zips coach Terry Bowden said this week.
The winless Minutemen (0-9, 0-5 Mid-American Conference) might appear to be a team that UA (1-9, 0-6) can beat for their second win, especially given the struggles that UMass has had on offense and defense.
The Minutemen have scored just 90 points and given up 397 points this season, but Bowden remains wary.
“I think you have to go out there and play your football game,” he said. “There are too many games in this conference for that to be a good stat.”
Playing their first Division I-A season, UMass started with an ambitious schedule that included UConn, Vanderbilt, Michigan and Indiana. Close to 200 of the points UMass has yielded came against those four opponents.
Included in losses to MAC opponents, they took Ohio to the wire, but played haplessly against Northern Illinois.
Still, this game is the Zips’ best final chance of reaching that magical second win, which would be an improvement over the past two seasons.
When the Zips have the ball: Going by statistics alone, this should be one of those games in which quarterback Dalton Williams (290-of-467 passing for 3,003 yards and 24 touchdowns) should be able to generate some offense. The Minutemen give up an average of 240.2 passing yards per game and are last in scoring defense, giving up 44.1 points per game. Coming off his best game (30-of-41 passing for 312 yards and two touchdowns) against Kent State last week, Williams could have another big week.
“I think they’ve done a good job of tailoring their system to feature his skill set,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said of Williams. “They don’t ask him to do many things he can’t do. He makes the same throws over and over again, which tells you they have a pretty good feel of what he’s good at and the things he does well, he does very well.”
The Zips should also have the opportunity to keep the Minutemen off balance by running the ball. UMass allows an average of 242.2 rushing yards per game. UA running back Jawon Chisholm has gained 803 yards and has three touchdowns in 140 carries. Chisholm rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Golden Flashes.
When the Minutemen have the ball: UMass ranks second to last in the conference in rushing offense, averaging 102.6 yards per game. The MAC is a passing conference, but you must run the ball better than that to open up a passing game. UMass ranks last in the conference, averaging 167.3 passing yards per game.
The Zips are coming off one of their better defensive games in the loss to KSU.
“They played really hard on defense; they were in the game the whole time and defensively kept themselves in it. It was as good of a performance they’ve had all year,” Molnar said.
The Zips will honor 14 seniors and two senior managers during a ceremony before kickoff today. The class did not have as much success as past Zips teams and had three coaches during its time at UA, but the seniors leave with a ton of respect from Bowden.
“These players have a lot of character. They have a lot of substance to them,” Bowden said. “I don’t think they’ll be guys who come back to shame. They’ll come back and be part of the university. These are guys that you’d want to be your sons or marry your daughters.”
Williams broke Luke Getsy’s 7-year-old record of 23 touchdown passes in a season when he tossed No. 24 against the Golden Flashes. … This is the first time that UMass and UA will meet in football.
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.