“So far this season the Zips football squad has already endured more highs and lows than last year. The bottom line is that this inexperienced team is .500 midway through the season and 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference, which is more than any sane person could have expected out of this team that had more holes than a piece of rotten Swiss cheese.””
So far this season the Zips football squad has already endured more highs and lows than last year.
The bottom line is that this inexperienced team is .500 midway through the season and 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference, which is more than any sane person could have expected out of this team that had more holes than a piece of rotten Swiss cheese.
The Zips’ midterm grades, however, don’t necessarily reflect how they have managed to overachieve because this team’s sum is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
The quarterback carousel seems like it hasn’t affected the rest of the club as it very well could have. Chris Jacquemain earned the spot out of preseason practice, then lost his job in favor of Carlton Jackson after his performance in the second half of Indiana. After Jackson violated a team rule, Jacquemain was given the job back.
Both have shown their collective inexperience, but both have had their moments. Jackson led the Zips to a win against Kent State, something that gives any UA quarterback immunity to poor mistakes, at least for a couple games. Jacquemain’s breakout game was last Saturday against Western Michigan when he tossed for 389 yard-nearly doubling his season total-and four touchdowns.
But the offense has sputtered much of the season and the Zips rank near the bottom of Division-IA in every offensive category, including 111th in total offense.
Running Back: C-
Again there are a lot of positives in UA’s backfield. They boast three backs with exceptional athleticism in Bryan Williams, Alex Allen and Dennis Kennedy, who all have 90 yards-per-game talent. The problem is that Kennedy, last year’s starter and workhorse, has been plagued with multiple nagging injuries, coupled with the fact he’s been spending a lot of time on special teams.
That forced Williams into the feature back role, in which he’s had some good moments, but is only averaging slightly less than 40 yards-per-game on the ground.
Offensive Line: D
Again, injuries have played a part in the lack of production, but with the aforementioned three-headed backfield monster, there should be more production from the backs and it’s not all their fault. The line has also allowed 16 sacks this season, 27th most in the country.
Wide receiver: B-
The receivers, much like the Zips offense as a whole, look a whole lot better and earn a much better grade than they should receive because of one man. Jabari Arthur, easily the best wide out in the conference, has become Zips quarterbacks’ first, second and third option in the pass game. Arthur’s 49 receptions are 10th in the country and his 107 yards per game average rank eighth.
John Mackey’s injury has already proven costly in the two games since his injury. The Zips have yielded 83 points in the games following his injury as opposed to 95 in the four games he played in.
But the defense has kept them in every game, most memorably against Ohio State, when they held the now No. 3 Buckeyes to three points in the first half and its lowest total scoring output of the season. The Zips also have the 16th best turnover margin in the country, forcing eight. No one has played as well as Reggie Corner, who has three interceptions on the year, including one for a touchdown.
Special teams: A
Easily the most drastic improvement the Zips have made is on special teams, starting with the place-kicker Igor Iveljic. The redshirt freshman seems to gain more and more confidence with every game and has restored sanity to the extra-points-kicking circus of last year. He’s connected on 12 of 13 extra points and has made eight of 10 field goals, including a career-long 51 yarder against WMU and has turned a glaring weakness from last year’s squad into a strength.
You can’t mention the Zips’ special teams without Andre Jones, who not only turned a five-point deficit to a two-point win in 15 seconds last week with a kick return for a touchdown, but also is third in the country in punt return average.
Williams, who doubles as a kick returner, also has been extraordinarily effective, ranking third in the country with a 35-yard kickoff return average.
Jon Stec was inconsistent early in the season, but has seven punts that have landed inside opponents’ 20-yard line.
The main factor that has pushed the Zips over the edge this season is the chemistry this year’s team has. It’s been well-documented this year’s team is clique-free and genuinely plays as a team. Last year, that was a problem, with the offense and the defense playing as two separate units and holding ill will toward the other side of the ball if they didn’t play up to par. Credit head coach J.D. Brookhart and the seniors for turning that around.
And because they did, they’ve exceeded expectations.