Lateral saves Zips

“When the University of Akron failed to score a game-tieing touchdown late in the fourth quarter after having first and goal from the seven-yard line at Western Michigan Saturday, it appeared as though UA’s third-quarter struggles would again lead to a loss.”

When the University of Akron failed to score a game-tieing touchdown late in the fourth quarter after having first and goal from the seven-yard line at Western Michigan Saturday, it appeared as though UA’s third-quarter struggles would again lead to a loss.

After the Zips’ defense stopped the Broncos’ offense from gaining a first down on three rushing attempts, WMU head coach Bill Cubit elected not to punt. Instead, Broncos wide receiver Jamarko Simmons got the ball and ran around to allow additional seconds to tick off the clock before surrendering a safety.

The safety cut WMU’s lead to 38-33 with 15 seconds left in the game and set up one of the most dramatic finishes in UA football history.

Zips wide receiver Alphonso Owen returned the free kick from WMU punter Jim Laney to around UA’s 25-yard line. As Owen was being tackled by Broncos defenders, he pitched the ball to Andre Jones.

Jones found an opening in WMU’s coverage team and cut across the field to the right sideline before running into the endzone, following a key block by running back Andre Walker. The 89-yard return would give the Zips a dramatic 39-38 win.

Cubit aptly described the emotional shift that resulted from the game’s finish.

It’s unbelievable, WMU’s third-year head coach said. You just have to let it go. I can’t describe the feelings we have right now.

Akron head coach J.D. Brookhart said that he did not see the pitch while on the sideline, but saw Jones and a host of other Zips continue to run down the field.

All of a sudden, I saw white shirts coming down the sideline and I went with it, Brookhart said.

It was amazing.

After holding a 24-17 halftime lead, UA would be outscored 14-0 in the third quarter. WMU led the Zips 31-24 at the start of the final quarter. The Zips have been outscored 65-3 in third quarters in 2007.

Akron (3-3, 2-0 MAC) and Western Michigan (2-4, 1-1 MAC) both had offensive players post career highs in the game. Zips redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Jacquemain set career highs in completions (23), yards (389) and touchdown passes (4).

Zips’ junior running back Bryan Williams ran for a career-high 72 yards and scored a touchdown on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Jacquemain.

UA place kicker Igor Ivelijic converted the longest field goal of his career when he made a 51-yard field goal in the first quarter to give the Zips a 3-0 lead.

The Zips’ offense compiled 501 yards of total offense while the Broncos’ offense produced 491 yards.