Offense plays it safe

“COLUMBUS — The Zips’ strategy coming into Saturday’s game against the Ohio State Buckeyes was to create a possession-oriented contest that limited the opportunities for the Buckeyes’ offense. They accomplished their goal by forcing five turnovers and pinning the Buckeyes deep in their own territory on punts by John Stec, but Akron’s offense failed to effectively move the ball and turn Ohio State’s miscues into points.”

COLUMBUS — The Zips’ strategy coming into Saturday’s game against the Ohio State Buckeyes was to create a possession-oriented contest that limited the opportunities for the Buckeyes’ offense.

They accomplished their goal by forcing five turnovers and pinning the Buckeyes deep in their own territory on punts by John Stec, but Akron’s offense failed to effectively move the ball and turn Ohio State’s miscues into points.

Akron lost to No. 11 Ohio State 20-2 at Ohio Stadium, where the Zips managed only 69 yards of total offense.

Our goal in this game was to play a tight football game and to have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter, Akron head coach J. D. Brookhart said after the game. I think we were pretty close to doing it. We didn’t find a way to win it.

Akron took the lead and scored its only points of the game in the first quarter when Brion Stokes tackled Ohio State running back Chris Well for a 2-yard loss in the endzone for a safety.

Aided by interceptions by cornerback Reggie Corner and rover John Mackey, and a fumble recovery by Doug Williams, the Zips’ defense limited the Buckeyes’ scoring in the first half to a 37-yard field goal converted by Ryan Pretorius. Ohio State led 3-2 at the half.

Akron’s offense, which relied primarily on a running attack and horizontal passing scheme, proved ineffective against Ohio State’s swarming defense. The offense did not sustain any of its drives, producing only three first downs and punting 14 times.

The game plan was chosen to attempt to offset Ohio State’s effective pass rush and because other teams have had success when employing a similar scheme, Brookhart said.

People have had success doing that against them – spreading them out and doing those things, he said. We took it from film study and thought we’d attack them that way – get them tired.

We just didn’t stay on the field long enough to tire them out.

While Ohio State’s defense remained fresh, quickly ending Akron’s drives and making more frequent substitutions, the Zips’ defense began to tire and give up big plays as the game progressed.

OSU’s first touchdown came on a 7-play, 62-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard pass from Todd Boeckman to Brandon Saine in the third quarter. The Buckeyes scored their final points on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Boeckman to Brian Robiskie in the fourth quarter to cap a 6-play, 83-yard drive.

I thought our defense played extremely well, Brookhart said. I thought they wore out in the end because of the number of plays they played and all the special teams’ (plays) they were in. I was proud of the effort.

Mackey said that fatigue played a role in the defense’s diminished success in stopping the Buckeyes in the second half.

Some of us just got too tired and then we started to break down mentally, which you can’t do, Mackey said. Man-for-man, we could hang with them easily, but then (we) started to break down, and we can’t have that.

The Zips’ fourth-year head coach said creating turnovers and being able to capitalize on those mistakes were vital in the Zips having a chance to upset the Buckeyes.

Those are the things you have to have, Brookhart said. We had them and didn’t take advantage of them. We have to do that if we’re gonna win these types of ballgames.

Defensively, as a whole, I thought we played well enough to win.

Zips starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain completed 12-21 passes and was sacked three times. Carlton Jackson, who played his scheduled series in the second quarter and finished the game after re-entering the game with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter, completed 5-10 passes for 18 yards.

Brookhart said that the extra playing time for Jackson late in the game was an attempt to spark the offense, and he reiterated that Jacquemain will remain the team’s starting quarterback.

It was just really a decision of a changeup, Brookhart said. It wasn’t the quarterback that was the issue. It was the unit as a whole.

Chris will start next week.

Mackey, who was credited with seven solo tackles along with the second quarter interception, said that he was proud of the effort displayed by the defense and that the unit’s performance will give the team continued confidence as they progress through the season.

We played our hearts out, Mackey said. We played (until) the last snap. It shows us that we can hang with anybody.

Akron travels to Bloomington, Ind. to face the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon.


” #1.1361869:2092899343.jpg:3685.8×12.jpg:Senior Brion Stokes tackles Ohio State running back Chris Wells in the end-zone for a safety at Ohio Stadium in Columbus Saturday. The safety was the Zips only points.:Paul Ferrer / The Buchtelite”