Anyone who asked what went wrong with the University of Akron football team last Saturday as they were shellacked by Miami University wouldn’t be alone.
That’s a question likely to occupy Zips fans until, well, at least after reading this. The Zips looked lackadaisical, listless, uninterested, and the RedHawks just pounded them.
The UA football program is at a point where games like that shouldn’t happen. But with four turnovers, the defense being picked apart by Miami quarterback Gus Ragland and their running game, UA should have lost.
But should the Zips look to this as regression or just a bad game?
“There's a little bit of both there,” UA coach Terry Bowden said. “Anytime you lose a game — a conference game like that — that's one of those rungs in the ladder. When we didn't make that rung, we fell back a step. But there's a lot of things in that game, too, that you say we can correct those things.”
Bowden said the turnovers were a case of “when it rains, it pours.”
But giving up 208 yards rushing? That needs to be an atypical stat for a defense that went into the game giving up fewer than 100 yards per game.
That was a game that could have put the Zips into a mindset in which they could play more loose this week against Buffalo, a team that is arguably the best in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division. Instead, they’re looking at a must-win situation. But Bowden refused to put that label on just this one game.
“Last year we got beat by Toledo, we lost to Miami, then we played the hottest team in the conference in Ohio University and we beat them,” he said. “If we had let any of those games be a deciding factor, we would have never come back and had the finish we had. They're all must wins to us as we look at our conference games if you want to control your destiny.”
The running game continues to be an issue for the Zips and it was even more so against the RedHawks. In the past two games, quarterback Kato Nelson led the team in rushing.
It certainly didn’t help that UA lost starting right tackle Brandon Council and was forced to try to work through the issue with backup left tackle Undrea Bullard playing right tackle.
In fairness, Nelson often has the option of choosing whether to run based on the defense he sees. Still, Bowden said he prefers to see his tailback, Van Edwards, tally the most yardage, but don’t be surprised to see other backs such as Keyondre White and Jemarulin Suggs (East) get to lug the ball some.
“The key to bolster our offense is to mix our run in with our pass game and not put the entire game on the offensive line's hands in regard to pass protection,” Bowden said.
Pound for pound, safety Alvin Davis Jr. might be the toughest defender for the Zips. After getting called for targeting, he will miss at least the first half of Saturday’s game in Buffalo.
It’s also appearing distinctly likely that Davis could miss the entire game.
“We don't know if he's going to play in the second half because he had a head-type injury,” Bowden said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.