It was indeed Black Friday for The University of Akron football team at Pederson Stadium in Athens.
Needing to win their final two games of the season to be bowl eligible, the Zips fell behind by 21 points in the first quarter and never overcame that deficit in a 49-28 Mid-American Conference loss to the Bobcats.
As has been the case all season, the Zips' inability to generate yards on the ground proved to be their undoing. UA rushed for just 32 yards, which forced the Zips (4-7, 2-6) to rely on quarterback Kato Nelson, who still isn’t fully recovered from an injury. Nelson was 24-of-41 passing for 356 yards and four touchdowns, but it was easy for the Bobcats to sniff out what was coming their way.
Conversely, the Zips defense didn’t come close to stopping Ohio on the ground. The Bobcats (8-4, 6-2) rolled up 381 rushing yards behind A.J. Ouellette, who piled up 169 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Running back Maleek Irons added 126 yards on 18 carries and quarterback Nathan Rourke had 86 yards and four scores on 18 attempts.
Despite falling behind early, the Zips never folded or played with their heads down.
The Zips' first score came courtesy of some Bobcats generosity. Ohio was penalized on a punt return, setting up a returnable kick that gave UA decent field position at their own 31. After a 15-yard personal foul, the Zips were in the end zone several plays later on a 10-yard pass from Nelson to running back Van Edwards.
Nelson later added touchdown passes to wide receiver Andre Williams (17 yards), tight end Brian Reinke (6 yards) and wide receiver Mychel Traylor-Bennett (12 yards).
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.