Zips Dominate Ball State in Homecoming Victory

Akron Zips (3-3) 31 – Ball State (2-4) 3



Zips QB Thomas Woodson tries to outrun Ball State’s John Swisher and Anthony Winbush during Saturday’s game. (Photo courtesy of Zips Football)

By A.J. Fagerlin and Robert Corts

After winning their first Mid-American Conference game last week against Bowling Green, the Akron Zips were able to overcome season-ending injuries to two of their key players to defeat the Ball State Cardinals 31-3 on Saturday.

A.J. Fagerlin
InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field prior to Saturday’s Homecoming game.

After losing leading rusher, senior Warren Ball along with defensive captain, senior Zach Guiser for the season, different players had to step up for the Zips to win. Deltron Sands, Manny Morgan and Van Edwards Jr. led the Zips offensively, running 21 times for a total of 114 yards on the ground. Defensively, linebackers Ulysees Gilbert III and Andrew Hauser racked up 13 tackles apiece.

Without his reliable running back, quarterback Thomas Woodson continued to thrive, going 17-for-30 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, getting his team on the board quickly with a 24-yard touchdown to wide receiver Austin Wolf on the Zips’ first possession of the game.

“We expect a lot out of Thomas,” said Head Coach Terry Bowden after the game. “When you’re a fifth-year senior and you’ve played a lot of football, you always get a lot of credit when things go right and when things go wrong. He knows our offense, he knows what we expect out of each play, and he knows what we want to do.”

Akron’s red zone defense came through with multiple crucial stops throughout the game, including holding Ball State to a field goal towards the end of the first quarter, the Cardinals only points of the game.

The Zips struck early again in the second quarter, with Sands breaking a 32-yard touchdown to give Akron a 14-3 advantage. The Zips defense set the tone for the rest of the game in the second quarter with another impressive goal-line stand. Ball State possessed the ball first-and-goal from the 5-yard line and had two opportunities to punch it in from the 1-yard line, going for it on fourth down. But the Zips held their ground, keeping Cardinals RB Caleb Huntley out of the end zone.

“If you don’t make that goal-line stop, it may change their personality,” said Bowden. “It might change their feeling about what they’re doing in that ballgame. Momentum is an elusive thing, and we had it. That was as big of a stop as we had.”

Akron kicker Tom O’Leary nailed a 48-yard field goal to give the Zips a 17-3 halftime lead. A 21-yard touchdown pass from Woodson to wide receiver Kwadarrius Smith early in the fourth pushed the Zips’ advantage to 24-3.

Ball State tried to battle back through the air, but the Zips defense was too much for Cardinals quarterback Jack Milas. Although Huntley managed 129 yards on the ground, Milas threw for just 176 yards and three interceptions. Hauser leaped to pick off a pass from Milas in the third quarter and cornerback Darian Dailey grabbed an interception in his own end zone, ending a Ball State scoring opportunity once again.

Late in the fourth quarter, Milas was intercepted once again, this time by linebacker John Lako who returned it for a touchdown, putting the proverbial nail in the coffin for Ball State. The Cardinals sent out backup QB Zack Blair for their final offensive drive and the Zips’ stout defense once again forced a turnover on downs in the red zone to end the ballgame.

Akron will look to continue their winning way Saturday, as they travel to Kalamazoo to take on the Western Michigan Broncos. Western Michigan is 4-2 on the season (2-0 in MAC play) and is coming off of a win against Buffalo, 71-68, in a NCAA record-tying seven overtime periods. Saturday’s win moves the Zips to 3-3 on the year and 2-0 in the conference.