Five games into the season, it’s clear that the University of Akron football team is a work in progress. Fix this problem and another appears over there. Coach Terry Bowden is playing Whack-a-Zip.
•?First, the Zips still can’t put together a complete game. The Zips got off to a fast start against Bowling Green, outscoring the Falcons 14-3 in the first quarter. The rest of the game wasn’t so great as they lost 31-14.
Going in, the Zips (1-4) had scored just three points in the first quarter. By the end of the first quarter in Bowling Green, they erased that trend. But a problem came with it.
They didn’t finish.
Coming into the BG, opponents had outscored UA by one point (71-70) in the second half. That encouraging fact is what helped the Zips come close to defeating Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette. Slow starts didn’t help in either case.
Last week, when the Zips jumped all over the opponent to start the game, they couldn’t finish.
Quarterback Kyle Pohl and Bowden agreed that the Falcons overpowered them in the second half. Credit must be given to BG coach Dave Clawson and his staff for their halftime adjustments, which worked perfectly.
Once they began moving sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson’s pocket around, the offense picked up.
•?The Zips need to get their running game going. They put up just 97 yards rushing against the Falcons, with starter Jawon Chisholm leading the way with a Trent Richardson-like 28 yards on nine carries for a 3.1 per carry average. Additionally, almost a quarter of those yards came from the wide receivers, so the problem runs deeper.
The Zips went into BG averaging just 111 yards per game, and Saturday’s effort didn’t help those numbers. The Zips blockers don’t look as if they get enough push off the ball, and Chisholm can’t seem to see the holes when they are there. Bowden wants to average 160 yards or better rushing per game. They’re not close to that.
•?Zach D’Orazio makes the offense go. L.T. Smith got in another big play in the form of a 51-yard touchdown, but it’s clear that if D’Orazio is taken away, the Zips struggle.
He is Pohl’s go-to guy. He caught just three balls Saturday, and the Zips offense struggled in the process.
At 6-foot-2, he gives Pohl a big receiver in one of the slots and possesses the speed to be a playmaker.
•?The defense has a long way to go. The rotating line had a sack party Saturday in the first half of the game, so much so that Clawson considered replacing Johnson.
Defensive end C.J. James came up with three sacks, and they seemed to have the Falcons offense on the ropes early on. But Saturday they were especially vulnerable to the run, allowing Travis Greene to rack up 142 yards rushing on 24 carries. Much of that yardage was given up in chunks; Greene had three passes or runs of 20 yards or more.
•?The Zips are indeed gaining respect.
“Going into the week I really thought Akron was much more physical on both sides of the line than a year ago, and all that proved to be true,” Clawson said in Monday’s MAC coaches teleconference. “They really got after us in the first half.”
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.