EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the eighth in a series of previews on Marshall and West Virginia football opponents.
Date with Marshall: Saturday, Sept. 20, time TBA, TV TBA
Site: InfoCision Stadium (30,000, ProGrass), Akron, Ohio
Series: Marshall leads series 8-4
Last meeting: Akron 31, Marshall 28, Nov. 5, 2004 at Akron
Coach: Terry Bowden (third year at Akron, 6-18; 20th year overall, 146-80-2)
Checking them out
The good news here: Marshall players, coaches and fans are not going to the Rubber Bowl. In 2009, Akron opened the new stadium it so desperately wanted and needed.
The not-as-good news: The Herd could get caught overlooking a team with eight straight losing seasons. With Terry Bowden improving a 1-11 team to 5-7 last year (with a close loss to Michigan), that would not be smart.
Bowden is in his third year with the Zips and the sixth since he left ABC/ESPN to re-enter coaching. His 2013 team started 1-6 but finished with a 4-1 flourish, taking down Toledo in the season finale. All sorts of bad streaks ended: The Zips had lost 30 road games in a row and 28 against FBS competition.
Serving as offensive coordinator, Bowden installed a no-huddle offense, but improved defense was the story of 2013. The Zips cut their total yardage allowed from 450 per game to 397 and scoring defense from 36 points to 29. The Zips held foes under 400 total yards seven of their last eight games — by contrast, they gave up 633 to Tennessee and 705 to Miami (Ohio) in consecutive weeks in 2012.
Keys to that? Much fewer long runs yielded and a rise in sacks from 16 to 28.
The challenge to this unit is the loss to three defensive linemen. The linebacker corps returns, though, in Justin March, C.J. Mizell and Jatavis Brown, among others.
Kyle Pohl returns at quarterback, ending a string a three starting quarterbacks in three years. His top returning targets are Zach D’Orazio and Fransohn Bickley, with 869-yard runner Jawon Chisholm in the backfield. Reloading the line is a concern with only two starters returning.
Punter Zach Paul and the Zips’ coverage unit present one of the better weapons, averaging 38.18 net yards per kick. The Zips also blocked five kicks.
Offense: RB Jawon Chisholm, WR Zach D’Orazio,
Defense: LB Jatavis Brown, LB Justin March
Special teams: P Zach Paul
Bowden was granted a two-year extension, now running his contract through 2018. … Bowden’s brother, Jeff Bowden, coordinates Akron’s special teams and coaches outside receivers. The defensive coordinator is Chuck Amato, the bombastic former head coach at North Carolina State. … The Zips are 9-21 at InfoCision Stadium, 3-3 last year. … Akron’s mascot Zippy the Kangaroo won the Capital One National Mascot of the Year award in 2007.
DATE OPPONENT 2013
Aug. 28 (Thu) Howard DNP
Sept. 6 at Penn State DNP
Sept. 20 Marshall DNP
Sept. 27 at Pittsburgh DNP
Oct. 4 Eastern Michigan* DNP
Oct. 11 Miami (Ohio)* W 24-17
Oct. 18 at Ohio* L 3-43
Oct. 25 at Ball State* L 24-42
Nov. 4 (Tue) Bowling Green* L 14-31
Nov. 11 (Tue) at Buffalo* DNP
Nov. 18 (Tue) at Massachusetts* W 14-13
Nov. 25 (Tue) at Kent State* W 16-7
* Mid-American Conference games
2013 record: 5-7, 4-4 MAC (T-3rd place, East Division)
Dropped: Central Florida (L 7-38), James Madison (W 35-33), Michigan (L 24-28), Louisiana-Lafayette (L 30-35), Northern Illinois (L 20-27), Toledo (W 31-29)