The University of Akron lost another close football game Saturday. And the Zips followed another familiar path, digging a big hole in the first quarter.
The evidence exists that the offense opens slowly but generally finishes furiously. In their first four games, opponents outscored the Zips 51-3 in the first quarter. That puts the defense in precarious situations, leaving them little room to make mistakes and forcing them to come up with big plays to put the Zips back into games.
“That’s all we talked about. Our mantra this week, our slogan was start fast, start fast,” Zips coach Terry Bowden said after a 35-30 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. “We’ve got to start fast. We really have to look at it.”
The Zips committed three first-quarter turnovers in the first four games. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, quarterback Kyle Pohl threw two interceptions in the first half. The defense was able to bail the team out after one of them, but the Ragin’ Cajuns capitalized on the other.
“It’s not the start we wanted. We dug ourselves a hole,” wide receiver Zach D’Orazio said. “It’s something we’re going to work on again this week, coming out with a fast start.”
Bowden said part of the problem might be they’re trying to analyze what opponents are doing instead of just attacking the defense. He sees one way to solve it.
“We look at the execution of our plays, making sure we execute the plays we call,” he said. “We have to keep from turning the ball over and putting the other team in a position to score. The big thing is we have to make sure our players are prepared to execute the plays we’re going to run in the first quarter.”
After several efforts this season when observers could sense something good coming from him, freshman Fransohn Bickley finally broke through Saturday. He caught five balls for 79 yards and two touchdowns, including a gutsy fourth-down call that led to one of them.
On that one, Pohl took three quick steps, found Bickley in the right flat and the former St. Vincent-St. Mary star did the rest, racing untouched into the end zone.
“It felt good to me to just help the team out. That’s all I’m really doing,” he said.
D’Orazio is continuing to have a stellar season, maintaining that chemistry with Pohl. He caught four passes for 111 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown in which he outraced the Louisiana-Lafayette secondary to the end zone. He’s the team’s leading receiver with 15 receptions for 231 yards (15.4 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.