By: DJ Johnson
A roaring fourth quarter comeback for The University of Akron football team looked to be complete after a touchdown pass as time expired cut Central Michigan’s lead to 23-22. Then, the Zips went for two.
Going for the win in the regulation, quarterback Clayton Moore sailed a pass over the outstretched arm of wideout A.J. Price, as the Zips’ hopes to win fell as quickly as they had come.
“Never did the thought come to kick it,” said Head Coach Rob Ianello. “The decision to go for two was made prior to that series.”
The Zips’ (1-7, 0-4 MAC) 16-point effort in the final quarter came up too short against the Chippewas (3-6, 2-3 MAC), who capitalized on a 20-0 lead through two and a half quarters. Despite Akron’s ability to put drives together late in the game, it was the play after a pair of touchdowns that ultimately cost the Zips the win.
When UA finally got on the board with 4:34 left in the third quarter after a Jawon Chisholm 38-yard touchdown run, the kicking unit ran a trick play, but was stopped short of the goal line. The failed extra point, making the score 20-6, proved to be crucial to the outcome of the game.
After a pair of field goals by both squads’ kickers to open the fourth, Akron found themselves down 23-9 with just over three minutes remaining.
As the clocked ticked down, Moore found wide receiver Maruqlo Suel for a 21-yard touchdown, pulling the Zips within seven with 2:57 to go.
The momentum continued as Akron’s defense forced the Chippewas to a three-and-out, giving UA the ball on their own 44 with 1:47 to go in the game.
The offense responded, orchestrating the two-minute drill perfectly to drive the ball down to CMU’s nine-yard line with four seconds remaining.
On what looked to be the last offensive play in regulation, Moore found Suel on a strike for a touchdown, making the score 23-22.
Ianello looked to capitalize on the momentum, keeping his offense on the field, but the ensuing pass and win fell incomplete.
“I felt like we had a play that matched up well…it just didn’t work out for us,” Ianello said. “We fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Despite the loss, the Zips showed impressive individual performances on both sides of the ball.
Highlighting the offense was Chisholm, who ran for 130 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, and Moore, who threw for a career-high 228 yards along with two touchdowns and an interception.
Linebacker Brian Wagner continued to be a force on the defensive side of the ball, recording 18 tackles on the day.
Arguably the Chippewas’ top-performer, freshman running back Anthony Garland pumped out 141 yards on 19 carries while adding a touchdown.
The loss makes Akron the only winless team in conference play. Both the Zips and Chippewas remain at the bottom of each division.
The win makes it five straight in the series for Central Michigan. CMU has now won four straight in Akron.
Ianello and company will look for their first win in MAC play this Thursday, as they travel to Oxford to take on Miami (Ohio).