The Akron Zips had an opportunity to make a statement in their season finale against the Toledo Rockets on Friday. The Zips were riding a two-game winning streak and had strung together back-to-back wins for the first time since the 2008 season. The opportunity presented itself for Akron to become .500 within the conference and end their 2013 campaign with a signature victory. On a cold and blustery day in InfoCision Stadium, the Zips rose to the occasion and shocked the Rockets behind their stingy defense in pulling off the 31-29 upset.
From the opening whistle, the Zips were playing with intensity and emotion on the defensive side of the football. Toledo was one of the hottest teams in the conference, compiling a 7-2 record over the last nine weeks and was averaging 37.5 points per game over that stretch.
However, Akron was able to hold the Rockets to 161 total first half yards in opening up a 17-10 halftime lead. The Zips forced Toledo into slowly working down the field and did not give up the big play to their speedy wide receivers (Bernard Reedy, Alonzo Russell). The Zips held Reedy to three receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown while Russell was held to six receptions for 57 yards.
The Akron secondary did a fantastic job in preventing the Rockets from hitting deep seam and fade routes on the afternoon. Akron forced Toledo Rocket quarterback Terrance Owens into check downs and throwing to his second and third options within his progressions. The Zips held Owens to a 48.6 completion percentage (16-of-33) for 158 yards and held Toledo to 4-of-13 on third down conversions (30.7 percent).
However, the Zips saved the best effort for last. With 59 seconds remaining in the game and Toledo attempting a two-point conversion that could have tied the score at 31, the Zips came through in the clutch. Akron forced Owens to roll to his left outside the pocket and he threw the ball behind his receiver on the one-yard line.
Linebacker Jactavis Brown led the Zips defense with 15 tackles and has become the emotional leader of the defense. The sophomore has developed all season long and gets stronger as the game goes on. His ability to make plays from sideline to sideline will have him on many of the conference’s watch lists at the start of the2014 season.
Akron head coach Terry Bowden has brought a new winning mentality to the program, and Saturday’s upset victory was another positive step in turning around the program. Coach Bowden has instilled a winning attitude that was lacking under previous coaches and deserves credit for the fantastic job that he has down this season.
As the season ends, the Zips can look to the 2014 season poised to build off of the progress made under coach Bowden’s tutelage.
Akron finished the year at 5-7 (4-4 MAC). Toledo fell to 7-5 and 5-3 in MAC play.