The University of Akron football team ended a 10 game losing streak with a 35-33 victory over the James Madison Dukes Saturday evening. The first victory of the year, however, does not come without both adversity and controversy.
The most important attribute of this game is to acknowledge that the Zips were able to capture their first win of the season and to snap a losing streak that has spanned two games. With that said, however, there were many negative things to take note of from this game.
One positive observation of this game is that the Zips have two quarterbacks that appear to be interchangeable. Both sophomore starter Kyle Pohl and backup Nick Hirschman have the ability to run Bowden’s spread offense with almost equal success, making the loss of one or the other less impactful on the game.
On the evening, Pohl was 14-22 for 143 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Hirschman was 6-10 for 144 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and one rushing touchdown.
Pohl was replaced by Hirschman early in the second quarter after becoming injured. Pohl reentered the game in the third quarter.
Sophomore wide receiver Andrew Pratt emerged as a reliable target, hauling in three targets for 118 yards and one touchdown.
It’s tough to analyze the problems with a team that just pulled off a win after a 10 game losing streak, but there are areas where the Zips need to improve if they are going to pull off a second win on the season.
Firstly, the defense seemed to take a step backwards from the improvement they had shown against the University of Central Florida last week.
The front four were unable to close gaps and the Zips’ secondary was sluggish to respond to the run game, allowing 188 yards on the ground. The secondary also allowed far too many big plays on third and long. The Zips’ defense will have to learn to step up on third-downs or this will be a long and difficult season.
The offensive line needs to work as a unit. With all the transfers that the Zips have had come in this season, there is little surprise that there would need to be some adjustment before the offensive line can work as a cohesive unit.
With that said, however, transfer offensive tackle from the University of Pittsburgh, Zenel Demhasaj, was consistently beat on the line, giving constant pressure to Akron quarterbacks.
The most concerning observation of the Zips against James Madison is a potential controversy at the starting quarterback position. Pohl started the game with two three-and-out series and an interception.
Upon Pohl’s departure from the game, James Madison was up by a score of 13-0. Hirschman entered the game and immediately commanded the offense down the field to the first touchdown of the game.
Throughout his play time, Hirschman appeared poised and comfortable in the pocket and under pressure. Pohl appeared uncertain and uneasy various times throughout the game. Hirschman connected with receivers on several deep passes, as did Pohl who threw the game’s sole interception on a deep-pass play.
This competition between quarterbacks could equally be viewed as a positive thing for the Zips offense. The two quarterbacks will need to compete for the starting position and the pressure will be on them to produce results in the Zips’ offense.
Though Hirschman appears to have emerged on top in this game, Pohl still possesses considerable strengths that the offense can utilize if he can learn to assert a higher level of confidence and leadership.
The win over the Dukes came almost a year after the Zips’ last victory, which was against Morgan State. There were 19,683 fans in attendance, according to Akron Athletics, which is the largest crowd to visit Infocision Stadium in the past three years.
The Zips will take on the No. 11 ranked University of Michigan Wolverines this weekend in Ann Arbor this Saturday. Turn to the Buchtelite sports section on Thursday for pregame coverage.
Matt Balsinger can be reached at email@example.com
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