I won't give you the Webster's definition because I hate when people do that. Plus, you already know what hope means.
Akron's 66-6 win over Morgan State yesterday gave everyone involved in Zips football just that: hope. Hope that maybe the Zips can be competitive in Mid-American Conference play. Hope that the current Zips are actually able to score points, unlike last year. And finally, hope that the team may actually be exciting to watch, unlike the past few years of futility.
Yes, you can say: "It's only Morgan State."
To that I say: "You're correct."
But, it's a baby step in the overused "big picture" thought process. Terry Bowden came to Akron last December with an impressive resume but a lot of questions nonetheless. Bowden knew it would be a long progression towards a winning season and a bowl game. He needed to start somewhere, though. He jokingly (I hope) said he'd just like to double the win total from last year. He's already halfway there.
After an unimpressive opening loss against UCF, the Zips lost a heartbreaker to Florida International in overtime on the road last week. Past Zips teams would have folded in that situation, but the current Zips stepped up and played a great game against a decent team.
Let's compare some stats from this year to last year:
|Points Through 3 Games||17||118|
|Points for Entire Season||170||118|
|Passing Yards Through 3 Games||502||1134|
|Passing Touchdowns for Entire Season||12||13|
Okay, so I made that last statistic up. But, just give those offensive numbers a look. The Zips already have more passing touchdowns this year than last year's total. The 118 points scored make up 70% of the total points scored last year. Keep in mind, these are pretty much the same players that Rob Ianello guided to a 1-11 record last year.
Save for one guy: Dalton Williams. The former backup QB at Stephen F. Austin turned started has been clutch for the Zips this year. Many scoffed at the fact that a FCS backup was the starter at the beginning of the season. If last week and yesterday say anything about Williams' future as a Zip, those people may be eating some serious crow come November. He won MAC East Offensive Player of the Week last week, an award that I don't think a Zip has won since 1991. Akron finally has a quarterback that coaches feel comfortable having out there.
Bowden now has all those jitters of the first win out of the way. Now he can focus on being competitive in the MAC. He doesn't have to win the MAC this year; that's pretty unrealistic. But, they need to be competitive in conference play. No more 51-10 blowouts at Buffalo or 68-19 performances at Western Michigan. And they certainly cannot lose to Kent State 35-3 at home.
His style of play is the ultimate foil to Ianello's ho-hum rushing attack. It's exciting. It fits the current roster. Most importantly, it scores points. #BowdenBall may have started ultimately as a branding technique to get butts in seats. Now, it's seemingly a way of life for the Akron offense. The defense needs work, but Chuck Amato has years of experience to draw on to fix that. It will take time, but it'll come.
Along with hope comes a belief: a belief that you will win. It may not happen next week at Tennessee, but it can certainly happen the week after against Miami. The coaches believe. The players believe. Hopefully, the fans can start believing too.