One thing the University of Akron could take from its 38-7 loss to Central Florida last Thursday is that the margin of defeat was less than last season when it lost by 42 points.
Zips coach Terry Bowden and his staff were able to find a few more positives from the game, too.
“The defensive front held up, put pressure and got four sacks on their quarterbacks. Really both sides of our lines [played well],” he said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.
Defensive tackle Nico Caponi played like a force, getting two of the Zips’ four sacks and clogging up the middle for much of the time he played.
The offensive line found a groove that allowed the Zips to put up 134 net rushing yards. Behind those rushing yards, redshirt freshman D.J. Jones, a Ravenna native, accounted for 54 yards on five carries, and sophomore Conor Hundley added 50 on 10 attempts.
“In the spring when he got his chance, we saw some things,” Bowden said of Jones. “We said that he was the surprise of the spring and in the game he made some good runs again. They were probably subbing by then, but he made a couple of nice, nice runs.”
One of those runs was a 23-yarder straight up the middle of the Knights’ defense.
Overall offensively, Bowden confessed the Zips went into Orlando, Fla., with a conservative game plan for quarterback Kyle Pohl.
“We probably had him too cautious — taking the short throw, taking the underneath throw — because of our discussions before the game that we’re not going to turn this ball over,” he said.
He said he wasn’t disappointed with Pohl’s 16-of-21, 98-yard effort. Pohl threw one interception.
“It was a good, solid performance but it would look too cautious in the future,” Bowden said. “We need to go out there and throw the ball down field and not be so cautious.”
Pohl certainly has an arm that will work in the vertical game.
Bringing them along
Freshman wide receivers Fransohn Bickley and Mykel Traylor-Bennett each saw some playing time once the Zips fell significantly behind. Each caught three passes, and Bickley came very close to breaking one. They weren’t expected to see a lot of action in the opener.
“They didn’t show any fear,” Bowden said. “It’s all a matter of when you feel like they’re ready to execute the routes.”
They might play Saturday against the James Madison Dukes in the home opener at InfoCision Stadium.
Upon further review
In one of the wackier, backbreaking plays from Thursday’s game UCF quarterback Blake Bortles dropped back to pass, lost control of the ball and caught it in midair and still managed to fire a 39-yard touchdown pass.
On the television replays it looked as if his arm moved forward, which would make it a double pass, and illegal.
At the time, Bowden said it looked like the right call. Eventually, his analysis of the game film showed that Bortles got away with one.
At one point during his Tuesday news conference, Bowden sounded a note of caution with respect to James Madison.
In a nutshell: the Zips can’t get caught up in collegiate hierarchy when playing that team. All he had to do was look to this past weekend’s results in college football for that bit of info. North Dakota State beat Kansas State, a team that was ranked No. 1 at one point last season, and Eastern Washington upset No. 25 Oregon State.
“It happens. I’m not surprised to see it happen,” Bowden said. “I’m surprised that the guys that got beat weren’t ready to go.”
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.