“Senior wide receiver Jabari Arthur caught a career-high 11 passes for 125 yards to lead the Zips’ young offense in a 22-14 win against Army in the inaugural First Merit Bank Patriot Bowl Saturday night at Browns Stadium. Arthur was the go-to receiver all night for first-year starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain, and he accounted for 11 of the team’s 17 receptions.””
Senior wide receiver Jabari Arthur caught a career-high 11 passes for 125 yards to lead the Zips’ young offense in a 22-14 win against Army in the inaugural First Merit Bank Patriot Bowl Saturday night at Browns Stadium.
Arthur was the go-to receiver all night for first-year starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain, and he accounted for 11 of the team’s 17 receptions. He also had the team’s only offensive touchdown. The Montreal, Quebec native made a leaping catch off a 30-yard pass thrown by Jacquemain to give the Zips a 19-7 halftime lead.
Arthur credited the team’s game plan and the time the University of Akron quarterbacks and receivers spent working together during preseason camp for his success.
I can honestly say that during the summer all three quarterbacks worked very, very hard, Arthur said. We did extra throws when we needed to. We got on the same page, and this game just showed that all that hard work worked out.
Jacquemain acknowledged that he has quickly developed a comfort level in throwing to the team’s most experienced receiver.
I always know where he’s at on the field, and I trust that he’ll be open, Jacquemain said. He’s a big, tall body. All I think (about) is (to) put the ball in his vicinity, and he’s going to go up and get it.
Akron head coach J.D. Brookhart added that Arthur played liked a senior and has continued to show improvement throughout his career.
He’s a competitive kid who’s capable of having those big games, the Zips’ fourth-year head coach said. He looks like a guy who’s played receiver for three years.
Arthur’s offensive output gave him 109 career catches and ranked him sixth-best on UA’s all-time career receptions list. He entered the game ninth-best.
The Zips’ other trip to the endzone occurred in the first quarter when senior Reggie Corner intercepted a David Pevoto pass and returned it 74 yards to give the Zips an early 9-0 lead. For his efforts, Corner was named MAC East Division Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Jacquemain ‘effective’ in debut
The season opener marked the debut of Jacquemain as a starter and the team’s new offensive scheme, which was run almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation. Jacquemain finished the game completing 14-24 for 125 yards and the touchdown to Arthur.
Brookhart said that he was pleased by the play of his starting quarterback.
Chris did a nice job of executing and making good decisions, he said. He made some mistakes, but he played better than most guys do as a true first-year starter.
The Zips’ running game proved effective, gaining 133 yards on the ground. Junior Dennis Kennedy led the team with 74 yards on 13 carries.
Brookhart followed his plan of playing redshirt sophomore Carlton Jackson at quarterback for a series in the second quarter. Jackson completed 3-5 passes for 29 yards in leading the offense on a 12-play, 66-yard drive that led to a 32-yard field goal converted by Igor Ivelijic.
Special teams: good and bad
Akron had some exceptional special teams plays, including a couple of solid kick returns.
The first occurred on the game’s opening kickoff when junior Bryan Williams returned the kick to the Army 23-yardline, which led to a converted 23-yard field goal by Ivelijic.
The Zips also had some poor special teams plays, including a missed extra point, missed field goal and blocked punt recovered in the endzone for an Army touchdown.
Take away a couple of plays (and) it was a real good night. Add those in, and it’s almost catastrophic, Brookhart said of the play of his special teams units. We’ve got to clean that up, which we will.
Akron’s win over Army marked the first time the Zips have opened the season with a victory in Brookhart’s tenure as head coach. Brookhart said that the win was important for the team as they continue to improve.
It’s huge. To do it in front of a local area and on this stage at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Brookhart said. I think it will help us get over some humps and grow quicker.
Up next: Ohio State
The Zips will travel to Ohio Stadium to play the Ohio State Buckeyes, ranked No. 11 in this week’s The Associated Press Top 25 Poll on Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon.
The two teams last met Sept. 8, 2001, at Ohio Stadium in Jim Tressel’s first game as head coach of the Buckeyes. Ohio State won that contest 28-14. The Zips are 1-5 against the Buckeyes all-time with their lone win coming in September 1894.
While acknowledging that the Zips will be undersized against the Buckeyes, Brookhart said that his team still expects to be competitive.
We’ve gotten to a point where we feel like we can play with almost everybody and compete, Brookhart said during his weekly news conference with the media Monday. We have to play very well to be in this football game. I think that they’re that good.
We’ve come a long way in four years.
Coach Tressel, who started his collegiate coaching career at UA as a graduate assistant in 1975 and remained a member of the Zips’ coaching staff through the end of the 1978 season, has fond memories of his time at Akron.
I enjoyed living in Akron, Ohio, and working at the university there as much as any place in my lengthy career, Tressel said via e-mail through OSU sports information director Shelly Poe. Jim Dennison gave me my first chance in coaching, and a lot of what I’ve done has been modeled after what I learned.
Tressel also said that he has enjoyed watching the Zips experience success under Coach Brookhart and expects Akron to be ready to play Saturday.
I am a proud alum of the Zips, Tressel said. They have talented coaches and players, and their record of late speaks for itself in indicating their ability to compete and succeed.
We know we will be in a good football game Saturday.
The Zips face Ohio State in Columbus Saturday at 12pm.
“” #1.1361897:3128973857.jpg:_DSC0820#.jpg:Zips wide-receiver Jabari Arthur caught 11 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown, leading the Zips to a 22-14 win against Army.:Jeff Harwell / Zips Sports Photography”