It very well might be that the University of Akron will go on to win more than one game this season. It’s just that the first victory wasn’t about to happen Thursday night at InfoCision Stadium.
Central Florida ended any thoughts of an upset before halftime as the Knights took a 35-0 lead just before the break. The Knights went on to win 56-14.
“For us to win this game we would have had to be almost perfect,” Zips coach Terry Bowden said. “It was a slow death, but there wasn’t much we could do.”
Before the Zips can even think about winning, Bowden will want to correct a few things. Actually, more than a few things.
The Zips were their own worst enemy for much of the game and in every facet. Defensively, they allowed Knights running back Latavius Murray to run rampant for 108 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game after the first half.
On offense, quarterback Dalton Williams looked the part as he was 30-of-50 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But the Zips had trouble sustaining drives in Bowden’s spread. With the exception of the opening drive of the second half, receivers dropped balls and the running game sputtered even before starting running back Jawon Chisholm fumbled the ball inside the 10 to set up another Knights touchdown.
More egregious errors came from special teams. Kick returner Dee Frieson muffed one punt on a fair catch inside Akron’s 10-yard line to set up another UCF touchdown and made a questionable decision to field another inside the 10. Considering Bowden tried to put the Zips in a position to be successful, showing enough confidence in them to attempt two fourth-down conversions, it probably wasn’t what he had in mind.
A fourth-and-1 succeeded but wide receiver Keith Sconiers dropped a fourth-and-5 pass at the Knights’ 32-yard line that would have kept a drive alive and conceivably have kept the Zips in the game. Although the Zips’ defense forced a punt, Frieson’s muff came on that change of possession.
The Zips battled themselves, turning the ball over four times. Although Williams missed a couple of open receivers, his receivers dropped plenty of balls that should have been caught. At one point, he appeared visibly frustrated on the field. Williams did not put blame on his receivers, complimenting them for their hard work on the field after the game.
Despite this football folly, there is something to build upon. The offense moved the ball through the air with Williams showing the familiarity and confidence necessary to run the spread attack. The receivers showed that when they hold on to the ball, the offense clicks.
“We’re going to win some ball games, but we’re going to get thumped some,” Bowden said. “There are a lot of areas we can improve upon.”
With the loss, Bowden’s record in season openers dropped to 13-5-1. … Akron’s record against the Knights dropped to 5-3. … The Zips have lost their season opener in five consecutive seasons. … The Zips scored their first touchdown in a home opener since InfoCision Stadium opened with Morgan State as the opponent.
Left tackle Jarrod Pughsley played with a sprained ankle, which occurred during a practice. … With the ZIps already hurting at linebacker, Keionne Baines was seen entering the Zips’ locker room after the game on crutches.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.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.