Save the last dance: Zips fall in homecoming, final non-league game

By: DJ Johnson

The University of Akron fell 27-17 to Florida International University in Saturday’s Homecoming football game.

The loss, Akron’s last non-league contest of the year, drops the Zips to 1-5 as FIU moves to 4-2 on the year.

“We don’t take any consolation in not winning,” Akron Head Coach Rob Ianello said. “We do take consolation in the fact that we are moving in the right direction.”

UA kept pace with the Golden Panthers for most of the game, entering the fourth quarter down by three, but a potent FIU offense and stingy defense proved to be too much for the Zips in the fourth.

A Clayton Moore fumble on FIU’s 11-yard line proved to be the difference in the game as the Panthers regained possession with just under eight minutes to go with a 10-point lead.

“We did a lot of things well today but in a game as tight as this…you got to find those plays on the field in order to get yourself over the hump,” Ianello said.

FIU’s offense found their plays through wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who caught 12 passes for 144 yards on the afternoon.

A Hilton catch set the Panthers up for their first score of the game, as kicker Jack Griffin knocked in a 37-yard field goal with 5:23 left in the first quarter.

The Zips responded immediately with a seven-play, 76-yard drive capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by running back Jawon Chisholm.

An A.J. Fox field goal with 12:41 left in the second quarter gave Akron the 10-3 lead, but FIU scored twice with a touchdown and a field goal in the last 4:04 of the half, giving them a 13-10 halftime lead.

FIU’s Kedrick Rhodes scored the first second-half touchdown, completing a six-play, 81-yard drive, pushing the lead to 20-10 with 5:47 left in the third quarter.

Zips’ quarterback Moore found the end zone with just over a minute to go in the third, cutting the deficit to 20-17.

A three-yard touchdown run by FIU’s Darriet Perry with 12:38 remaining in the final quarter pushed the lead back up to 10. The touchdown would be the last points of the game.

“I’m proud of the effort of our team today,” Ianello said. “I’m pleased with how we fought from the first play to the last.”

Akron was forced to start the game without the services of Chisholm, who was sidelined the first two series due to injury. Chisholm finished the day rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown.

UA linebacker Brian Wagner set a career-high with 22 tackles on the afternoon.

Moore added a spark to the Zips’ offense via his arm and legs, as he completed 11 of 22 passes for 157 yards and an interception and ran for 51 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown.

FIU Quarterback Wes Carroll completed 26 of 38 passes for 308 yards and an interception. Rhodes ran for 116 yards on the day, including the touchdown.

The Panthers outgained the Zips 524-262 in total yardage.

“We’ve got passion…we’re playing with great heart. What we are not playing with is great execution in certain stages of the game,” Ianello said.

UA will have the upcoming Saturday off before hosting Ohio University on Oct. 22.

“The open day comes at a good time for us,” Inaello said. “We have to lick some mental wounds and some physical wounds.”