The last time the Ohio Bobcats lost to Akron was 2007. Despite winning six straight games against the Zips, the Bobcats know that to extend the streak to seven, they’ll need a much better performance than they’ve displayed in recent weeks.
Ohio lost 31-13 to Bowling Green last week, despite racking up 513 yards on offense. The offense failed to convert in Falcon territory and the team was plagued by 16 penalties.
“I think we did a lot of things well,” Ohio receiver Sebastian Smith said. “We didn’t execute in the red zone.”
Ohio went down 14-0 early in the first quarter and never came within a touchdown after that point. In each of the Bobcats’ four losses, they’ve gotten themselves in a early deficit of 14 points or more.
“We’ve gotta stop adjusting to what the other team is doing,” Ohio (3-4, 1-2 MAC) defensive end Tarell Basham said “We have to come out and be the initiators.”
Akron is off to its best start in the MAC since 2007, the last time it defeated Ohio. The Zips are just two years removed from three consecutive 11-loss seasons, but their good start, highlighted by a win over ACC member Pittsburgh, has their sights set on a MAC East crown.
“It’s not that they’re doing that much differently,” Basham said. “They’re just making more big plays this year.”
Akron will be without its starting quarterback, Kyle Pohl, when it takes the field at Peden Stadium. Pohl suffered a concussion in last week’s 29-19 win over Miami. He’s thrown for 1,289 yards this season with seven touchdowns and just three interceptions.
The Zips have the No. 1 scoring defense in the MAC, allowing an average of 17.3 points per game. The only time they’ve allowed more than 20 points this season was against Marshall, who boasts one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NCAA.
“They’re a defensive football team that I think plays well together,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “They know what they’re doing.”
About the Opponent: Akron Zips (4-2, 2-0 MAC)
Location: Akron, Ohio
Colors: Blue and Gold
Mascot: Zippy the Kangaroo
Notable Alumni: Former NFL defensive lineman Jason Taylor, former Ohio State coach and current Youngstown State University president Jim Tressel, The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney
Players in the NFL: Carolina Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn
Previous Bobcat Game: 43-3 Bobcat win at InfoCision Stadium — October 5, 2013
Current Matchup: 2 p.m. Saturday — Peden Stadium
Bobcats to Watch
Offense: Ohio’s offensive line – The Bobcat O-line has struggled in recent games. They allowed five sacks last week against Bowling Green. Akron leads the MAC with 3.5 sacks per game. It’ll be up to them to give Sprague time to sit in the pocket, something he hasn’t had all season.
Defense: LB Jovon Johnson – Johnson, along with fellow linebackers Quentin Poling and Blair Brown, will be tasked with slowing down an Akron rushing attack that’s likely to receive a lot of carries on Saturday. Ohio has frequently allowed lots of passing yards on dump-offs to running backs, the position the Johnson is assigned to cover when in man defense. This is likely to be a plan of attack for Akron’s offense with a backup quarterback starting.
Zips to Watch
Offense: RB Conor Hundley – With Pohl out, Akron will rely heavily on its running game. Hundley shares carries with Jawon Chisholm, but he’s the starter. If Ohio wants to win, it needs to slow down Hundley, who’s averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
Defense: LB Jatavis Brown / DL Nordly Capi – The two are the leaders of the Zips’ defense. They’re currently tied for fourth in the MAC in sacks. If the Bobcat O-line continues their poor play from last week, the Akron duo could have a big day.
ZIps 17, Bobcats 13 – Akron’s defense will hold Sprague and the Ohio offense in check, not that has been a difficult task in recent weeks. Despite the loss of Pohl, Akron’s defense will give its offense good field position enough times for it to put points on board. Ohio will make it close late, but ultimately fall to the Zips and end its winning streak against Akron at six.