The University of Akron will face its most significant game in coach Terry Bowden’s tenure Tuesday night when it hosts Bowling Green at InfoCision Stadium.
The Zips (4-4, 2-2) would control their own destiny in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division with a win over the Falcons (5-3, 3-1). A win would tie them for the division lead, giving the Zips the inside track to play for the conference championship in Detroit.
But the Zips will have to fix one problem that has plagued them in their past two games.
“What we talked to our players about is eliminating the turnovers,” Bowden said. “I don’t think the effort changed. I don’t think their attitude changed. The turnovers changed.”
After the first six games of the seasons, the Zips were plus-7 in turnovers; the past two weeks, they are minus-6. That’s one big reason why the Zips are riding a two-game losing skid as they prepare for four weeks of prime-time games on the ESPN family of cable channels beginning Tuesday.
Last week against Ball State, the Zips held a 21-13 lead at halftime and hadn’t turned the ball over. But the floodgates opened in the second half when redshirt freshman quarterback Thomas Woodson threw four picks and the team lost a fumble as the Cardinals rallied for a 35-21 win.
It’s a situation the Zips cannot afford to repeat, Bowden said, because they are not yet capable of dominating opponents.
“We had a punt muffed and four interceptions — you can’t really win a football game that way,” he said of the Ball State loss. “It’s a tough lesson to learn, but we’ve got to learn how not to do that and, as coaches, we’ve got to impress it on our players.”
He didn’t put the blame on Woodson’s shoulders entirely, either, saying that better decision making comes with experience. The mistakes Woodson is making now won’t be ones he makes as a junior or senior, Bowden said.
Bowden related how Chris Weinke — who won a Heisman Trophy while playing for Bowden’s father, Bobby, at Florida State — went through the same growth process, once throwing six interceptions in a game.
According to Bowden, star receiver Peter Warrick told Weinke at one point: “Just tell me the guy you’re throwing it to and I’ll try to intercept it.”
Clearly, learning to play quarterback at the Division I level is a process.
Lessons will wait
Woodson’s further education at the position could be delayed, however, as Kyle Pohl is expected to regain his starting position against the Falcons. Pohl, who took a shot to the head against Eastern Michigan, missed games against Ohio and Ball State.
Bowden said the junior quarterback was cleared to play last Thursday, but the coaching staff preferred to err on the side of caution with his return. When asked whether Pohl will return to his job, Bowden said he doesn’t think a player loses his job to injury.
“I think Kyle gives us experience in running our offense,” he said. “That just comes with time. He’s got an entire season plus this season and a whole year prior to that getting reps.”
Bowden learned who owned Akron when he went to Johnny J’s Pub and Grille in the Valley to work on his radio show Thursday.
“It was packed. They know I’m here for this show, baby,” he said. “I’m doing my radio show and people start cheering and they crank it up and I look over there and they’re introducing the Cavs. They go nuts and it wasn’t for me — it was for LeBron [James].”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/George-M-Thomas.