There are few things in the sporting world that are more irritating than being a fan of The University of Akron’s football team.
The team clearly has improved over the last couple of seasons. Their sack rates are up, their offensive numbers are high and statically they compare to any other team in the Mid-American Conference.
However, the wins are not forthcoming. The Akron Zips have yet to play a complete game and have yet to beat an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) team because of it.
It’s discouraging because losing big is easier on a fan base than losing small.
The Akron Zips entered their game against the Associated Press’ No. 23 Northern Illinois University as a 22-point underdog. No one felt that the Zips had hope to upset the Huskies, but like in their last game against ranked opponent Michigan, Akron played just well enough to lose a close battle.
The Zips fell to the Huskies by only one touchdown; the game ended at 27-20.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois’ sophomore quarterback, was ranked the best returning player in the MAC by hustlebelt.com. Lynch has lived up to his hype this year. Craving opposing defense, Lynch had led his team to a five-and-zero record with wins over Big Ten opponents Iowa and Purdue. And while he put up big numbers against the Zips on Saturday, he threw for 220 yards and scored two passing touchdowns and ran one in. The Akron defense played him tough for 60 minutes.
It took Lynch 35 attempts to acquire the stats that he did. He completed less than half of them at 16. Defenses have held NIU to their lowest scores so far this year. Iowa gave up 30 points in their contest against NIU during the first game of the season, but since that meeting Northern Illinois has consistently put up scores in the 40s and higher.
One reason the Zips were effective was their tough run defense. The Huskies statically have the fifth best run defense in the nation, according to MAC statistics. They average over 300 yards on the ground per game. However, they were only able to garner 179 yards on 39 attempts against the Zips.
NIU running back Cameron Stingily averaged 3.8 yards a carry on his 21 attempts. More importantly, he was met rudely by Akron linebackers throughout the event. Zip linebacker Justin March, who recorded eight tackles in the game, laid wood on Stingily on a third-and-short that had the highly praised running back falling short of the first down in the first quarter.
The defense played one of their most complete games on Saturday, but while they were often seen celebrating on the sideline, Akron’s offense could not get things going.
Akron started strong by driving down the field on their first possession of the game. Zips quarterback Kyle Pohl connected with Fransohn Bickley, Jerrod Dillard and Mykel Traylor-Bennett and put their opponents on their heels.
The passing game worked everywhere except when the Zips got close to the end zone. There, it was the running back Jawon Chisholm and the Akron run game that finished the job. Chisholm took the ball to the one-yard line and then leaped into the end zone on the next play to give his team the lead.
But that was not a precursor for things to come. Pohl was given 56 attempts to make something happen through the air. But he was only able to complete 26 of them. Akron managed to score another touchdown in the first quarter and then stalled the rest of the game. Akron scored 14 points in the first quarter and only six the next three.
Chisholm only picked up 70 more yards on the game, even though he was given 18 more carries. Chisholm scored both touchdowns in the first quarter.
Northern Illinois scored 17 points in the first quarter, a touchdown in the third quarter and a field goal in the fourth. It was enough to barely defeat the Akron Zips.
Next, the Zips will travel to Miami (Ohio) in a game in which they may be favored. The Miami University Redhawks have yet to win a game this year and have already fired their head coach. However, the Zips have not won a road game in over three years.