Saturday’s 24-17 victory over Miami University might eventually represent the University of Akron’s return from football oblivion when considering the demons the Zips exorcised.
The victory ended a 30-game road losing streak, the last win coming on Oct. 18, 2008, at Eastern Michigan.
It was UA’s first victory against a Football Bowl Subdivision team after a string of 28 losses, the last win coming against Buffalo on Nov. 28, 2010.
It was the first win in Oxford since Oct. 21, 1939, and the first win at Yager Stadium.
No one could blame coach Terry Bowden for being a bit happy during his Monday morning teleconference.
“This is Akron, the day that you win a ballgame is a sweet day,” said Bowden, who was unaware of some of those streaks a couple of days before the game. “A lot of things got the monkey off the backs of those players.”
And the Zips were able to hang out despite a close call. The RedHawks recovered an onside kick and scored a touchdown late in the game before the Zips recovered a second onside kick attempt. It was the first time this season when it can be argued that the team played an almost complete game.
The Zips played efficiently on offense, coming close to the balance that Bowden expects. They passed for 227 yards and rushed for 147 yards, including three running touchdowns from Jawon Chisholm.
Defensively, the line harassed RedHawks quarterbacks for most of the afternoon, racking up seven tackles for losses, including six sacks.
Bowden said the players are pleased knowing that there won’t be a fourth consecutive 1-11 season.
“They’re excited about the win and the improvement and [they’re] looking forward,” he said. “We still have a lot of goals out there.”
But how did the coaching staff feel after that win, only their second since arriving at UA?
“We love to compete and win football games, but we continually make sure that we make it about the players,” Bowden said. “It’s not about us. We’ve been in this business a lot of years.”
But the reality is something different when considering what they walked into when they arrived almost two years ago.
“You have to sit there and say none of us has been through this either. It’s been quite a challenge for us,” Bowden said. “All of my coaches come from successful programs. It’s been a challenge and we’re going to continue to work through it. Just like it was a new day for Akron, each and every week offers a new day.”
And that new day offers possible hopes of postseason play.
Win out and the Zips are bowl eligible. Impossible? No, because the Zips have shown improvement, but they will have to still face at least two strong teams in Ball State and Kent State in the coming weeks to do so.
It’s because of that reality that Bowden sounded hesitant to say that the second win in a season was a turning point, noting that he still preaches one game at a time.
“We have a much, much stronger team this weekend in Ball State and it’s a much greater challenge,” he said. “Every week is going to be a greater challenge. We’re continuing to build. It’s not just a one-year process.”
North Canton’s Andrew Pratt, a product of Green High School, won Mid-American Conference East Division Special Teams Player of the Week for blocking a punt against Miami on their opening drive. The effort set the Zips up on the 13-yard line, from where they eventually scored a touchdown.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.