Rebuilding a program requires establishing a solid foundation so that success can be maintained for the long haul. Akron Zips head coach Terry Bowden understands that concept and has incorporated that into his program during his short tenure with the Zips.
The Zips must regroup this week after their week one 38-7 loss to the Central Florida Knights. The Zips will face the James Madison Dukes at home in InfoCision Stadium.
The Zips only managed 15 first downs against a very tough Central Florida defense. However, Akron was able to rush for 134 yards and average 3.8 rushing yards for the game. This looks to be a positive sign heading into this week’s game.
If Akron can run the football against James Madison, the Zips’ passing offense will be able to get into a rhythm against the Dukes. The Zips’ offensive line only allowed one sack against the Central Florida front four and gave quarterbacks Kyle Pohl and Nick Hirschman time in the pocket.
Pohl completed 16 of 21 passes for 98 yards and one interception. Hirschman, the Colorado Buffaloes transfer, led the team on a 10-play, 77-yard drive in the fourth quarter capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Imani Davis.
Look for running back Jawon Chishom to be more involved in the offense this week against James Madison. Chisholm only rushed for 10 yards on 11 carries in the loss to the Knights. The kicking game looks to be a strength after week one. Zips punter Zach Paul had a great night against the Knights. Paul pinned Central Florida inside their own 20-yard line three times and finished the game with a 46.7 average on seven punts.
The Zips showed signs of turning the corner from last season. On the game’s first play against Central Florida, Akron pressured Central Florida’s quarterback Blake Bortles and almost created a turnover. The pass rush from the edge was significantly more visible than last season.
Players like linebackers Justin March and Jactavis Brown (six tackles each) played with emotion and never quit on plays. Defensive tackle Nico Caponi was able to record two sacks and consistently create pressure in the pocket.
The Zips will need to shut down the big play against the Dukes and force turnovers in the game. The Zips will need to play aggressive as they are facing a run-first offense in the Dukes. James Madison was able to rush for 247 yards and pass for only 115 yards in their week one victory over Central Connecticut Blue Devils.
James Madison Offense:
The Dukes’ offense is led by quarterback Michael Birdsong, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown. However, Birdsong did more damage with his feet in the victory over Central Connecticut. He rushed for 55 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns.
Birdsong is not the Dukes’ only offensive threat. Running back Dae’Quan Scott is a home run hitter, rushing for 123 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns in the Dukes’ week one victory. In order to pull off the upset, the Dukes will need to continue to rush the football to keep Akron’s uptempo offense off the field.
James Madison Defense:
The Dukes were able to contain the Central Connecticut offense to 261 total yards of offense. The Dukes only gave up 132 yards through the air and were able to intercept two passes in last week’s victory. They held the Central Connecticut offense to 11 completions and only 42 percent passing (11 of 26).
The strength of the Dukes’ defense is the linebackers corps led by Stephon Robinson and Gage Steele. Both players are physical and finished last week’s game with 12 tackles.
The Dukes will need to be able to play fast on Saturday. The Zips will look to get quarterback Kyle Pohl into a rhythm early. If the Dukes cannot stop the pass against Akron, they will not be able to win this game.
While Akron looked out of sync in their week one loss, the team has a very quick defensive front that can put pressure on opposing offenses. James Madison is a solid team that is ranked 15th in the FCS, but I believe that the Zips will get back on track at home. Look for Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl to break out against the Dukes. The Zips’ defensive line will create pressure, and the secondary will have a better performance at home.
Akron 45 — James Madison 17