This is a transforming year for the Akron Zips (1-10, 0-7) with head coach Terry Bowden taking over the helm. Coach Bowden set a goal of winning at least two games this season avoiding a third consecutive one-win season. Tuesday is their last chance.
When I reported on the Buffalo Bulls I thought they were arguably the best one win team prior to the Rockets playing them in late October. Since then, the Bulls have won three in a row including yesterday's 29 to 19 win against UMASS, despite playing without their top two running backs.
Stepping into the Bulls paw prints are the Zips. There are one of seven one-win FBS teams in the nation (three are in the MAC) and, while Akron may not be the best of this lot, they may well be the most exciting to watch, particularly if you like the air full of footballs. They gave Kent State, Ohio, and Miami a run for their money and took FIU into OT.
Zips on Offense
This past spring last year's starting QB, Clayton Moore, transferred out when senior Dalton Williams transferred in from Stephen F. Austin. Williams has found a home in Coach Bowden's up-tempo, no huddle, spread offense. He's one of the top passing QBs in the country and ranked #1 in the MAC passing for 3,335 yards, averaging nearly 318 yards per game. His 25 TD passes put him in the top 10 in the country and number one in the MAC. He is fourth in the country completing nearly 29.5 passes a game.
Williams has performed at a high level all season long with the exception of the game against NIU going 15 of 29 for just 157 yards and only one TD.
His offensive line had done a very good job giving him time to throw. Given that he's a pure passer, hat's off to the OL for allowing less than two sacks per game. Their 1.82 sacks/game compares favorability with the Rockets 1.7 sacks/game stat. Dalton has thrown 518 times compared to TO's 333 passes with very similar completion percentages.
Ten Akron receivers have double digit receptions including six with at least 25 catches. The top receiver is senior WR Marquelo Suel with 73 catches for 790 yards. He is averaging 10.82 yards per catch and has five touchdown receptions. Adrian, MI native WR Jerrod Dillard (6'5", 199#) leads the Zips with eight TD catches and a stellar 15.1 yards per grab. WR Dee Frieson and converted defensive player L.T. Smith have combined for 91 catches and seven TDs. A pair of freshmen wide receivers, Goodman and Pratt, have 18 catches and 4 TDs between them. Williams throws the ball any Zip open down field including RB Jawon Chisholm with 279 yards on 32 receptions including a pair of TD catches.
Speaking of Chisholm, this 6'1", 190# sophomore RB has 906 yards rushing (5.56 per rush) and is looking for a 1,000 yard season against Toledo. Back up RB freshman Conor Hundley is averaging a bit less than four yards per rush.
As a team, the Zips have rushed for 1,306 yards and passed for 3,488 yards in 11 games. The Zips' offensive strengthen is passing. The Rockets are allowing 288 yards per game through the air - worst in the MAC and #112 in the nation. What has hampered Akron offensively are turnovers, 26 to date.
Zips on Defense
Another transition had the Zips star middle linebacker Brian Wagner transferring to the University of Arizona and was replaced by LB Kurt Mangum, a fifth-year senior transfer from Howard. Another nice get by Coach Bowden. Mangum, with NFL potential, is leading the Zips in total tackles with 100. Kurt is 6'1', weighs 235 lbs. and runs a 4.54 forty yard dash. LB Troy Gilmer is second on the team in tackles.
Up front pressure in the Zips 4-3 scheme comes from DE John Griggs with team high 5.5 sacks and 10.5 TFL.
Akron's secondary is led by another pair of transfers. CB Avis Commack, a fifth-year senior transfer from Florida State, has 43 tackles and a pick six. CB Malachi Freeman, a transfer from Nassau Community College (N.Y.), leads the team with seven pass breakups.
As good as the offense has been statically, the Zips' defense has had issues. UA is allowing 218+ rushing yards per game and slightly more than 230 passing yards per game. Akron opponents have been scoring at a rate of nearly 36 points per game.
Zips Special Teams
Freshman punter Zach Paul is averaging 41.34 yards, fifth best in MAC. The punt coverage unit, however, is giving up more than 11.5 yards on each punt return.
Imani Davis is averaging 8.67 yards per punt return, fourth best in MAC.
The Zips are 120th in kick off return yardage gaining, on average, a ball's length more than 15 yards. Conversely, they rank second in the nation in kick off defense.
FG kicker Robert Stein has converted 8 of 11 FGA with a season long of 46 yards. He has missed just one extra point on 37 PATs.
What to look for:
Austin Dantin to play QB for Toledo.
David Pasquale to spend time as running back.
Jermaine Robinson to have an interception.
The Zips will have more yellow flags than UT.
Neither team will have more than two QB sacks.
Toledo will be a plus 3 in the turnover battle.
Multiple field goals by Stein and Detmer.
Bernard Reedy to have a kickoff return beyond the 40 yard line (and no block in the back!).
The Rockets to have good field position most of the game on offense.
WR Jerrod Dillard to be the go-to target in the red zone for the Zips.
A busy night for UT defensive backs.
The Rockets to control the time of possession by 4+ minutes.
The Rocket special teams to have an outstanding evening.
No INTs thrown by the Rockets.
A rousing send off to the 18 seniors playing their last game in the Glass Bowl with temps in the upper 40s.