University of Akron coach Terry Bowden wanted the Zips’ record to be at .500 by the time conference play began.

Given the pre-conference schedule that the Zips played and all of the new changes, including new defensive and offensive systems, a 1-3 record doesn’t look too bad. The Zips open Mid-American Conference play at 2 p.m. Saturday with Miami University (2-2, 1-0) at InfoCision Stadium.

“It does prepare you when you play these good teams,” Bowden said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “You’d like to come out of these preseason things 2-2 if you can. You just play them and do the best that you can. I was awfully proud of the way our players have played the last four games.”

Now the question is how do the Zips measure up in the league.

“I don’t think we’re going to see anybody better than we’ve already seen,” Bowden said.

What he hasn’t done is emphasize the beginning of the conference season.

“I haven’t because I know the boys want to [win)],” he said. “We’ve got eight [games] out there, and I wish we win them all.

“You have to go out and play the first one and do the best that you can. They know. They want to win two games. They want to win the next game. I don’t want them over-thinking this thing.”

The key to not over-thinking it?

Keep practicing the way they’ve practiced; keep progressing every game.

“They will be keyed up to win it. All they’ve looked forward to is doing better in the conference. This is the first chance,” Bowden said.

The Zips only won one league game in the past two seasons and two of their past 18 in conference play.

Catching a break?

For anyone who listened to or was able to watch the Tennessee game Saturday, there’s little doubt that the Zips’ starting cornerbacks, Avis Commack and Malachi Freeman, starred. They also got a workout; Freeman, especially, as he was in on more than a few passes defensed.

Bowden is worried about wearing both of them out.

“He plays too many reps,” Bowden said of Freeman “We haven’t been able to rotate him off the field. He plays all the special teams. He does a great job for us being one of our best.

“He and Commack are the two guys we have to depend upon. We have to get them a little more rest. You can’t say enough about his energy getting to the ball.”

Continuing conundrum

The running back situation will likely remain static as three backs continue to do good things, Bowden said. Quentin Hines only improved his situation with his 75-yard run against the Volunteers on Saturday.

“[Jawon] Chisholm is running hard; he gets good hard rushing yards,” Bowden said. “I think you see Conor [Hundley] being a good short yardage, inside runner who can block.

“And Quentin Hines showed us why we want to get him some reps because he has that knack for breaking a long run. He had more speed than anyone on the field. I think they all have a purpose. I don’t want to rule anyone out. There are too many opportunities for those guys to step up and make plays.”

Chisholm leads the Zips with 242 yards on 51 carries. Hines is averaging 6.6 yards per carry on 21 attempts. Hundley has scored two touchdowns on his 20 carries.

Williams update

Bowden revealed that quarterback Dalton Williams suffered discomfort throughout the Tennessee game that caused him to throw the ball high. Bowden expects Williams, the conference’s leading passer, to be healthy for Saturday.

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.