In the first 20 minutes, the Akron Zips (4-3, 3-0 MAC) scored enough points to take down the Western Michigan Broncos (4-3, 2-1 MAC). Tim Lester’s Broncos failed to take advantage of the opportunities given to them. All Akron had to do was to shut down the comeback attempt and run out the clock.
Here are some key take-aways from the only collegiate Sunday football game this week:
Western Michigan loses their momentum quickly
The Broncos entered the game looking good. They had momentum and a long drive going. After Kyron Brown intercepted a Jon Wassink pass attempt, everything changed for the rest of the first half. The Bronco offense played flat after the first drive. Receivers seemed too content with almost catching the ball. Even starting in the red zone could not save the Broncos, who settled for three points in the first half.
Later, coming out of the second half, the Broncos looked like a brand new team. Defenders were flying around the field, flocking to the ball and making big plays. Akron was forced to punt and give the Bronco offense great field position. Unfortunately, the offense had a lot of difficulty finishing drives.
In a close game where timeliness and field position are key, momentum swings are vital. Western Michigan cannot expect to run through MAC West competition by losing the momentum so quickly.
Akron executed an excellent game plan
So much credit is due to Terry Bowden and his Zips. They did their homework and played the smartest game plan possible against the struggling Broncos.
Akron entered the game outscoring opponents 148-144. Bowden knew that the Zips would be fighting an tight, uphill battle. The plan seemed to be to score early and run the clock out. Akron did just that. All of Akron’s 14 points were scored in the first 20 minutes. They had no need to score more.
After scoring those points, Bowden’s Zips seemed perfectly happy running the ball to burn the clock. They dared Western Michigan to outscore them, which the Broncos failed to do.
Western Michigan’s offense is unpredictable
I cannot accurately predict what the Broncos look like at any given time, let alone give a prediction on a weekly basis. Variance in yardage is not healthy. The Broncos need to be reliable in some facet of the game.
On the ground the Broncos have incredible talent in the backfield. Four different explosive players exchange carries to keep each other fresh. At times, the blockers can create massive holes that my infant son could score a touchdown through. Picture the 362 yards against Wagner. Other weeks, it looks like my infant son is blocking. Now imagine 135 rushing yards against the Idaho Vandals.
Through the air, the Broncos are just as wild. Young receivers dropping balls force Jon Wassink to prematurely abandon the passing game. That cannot continue if the Broncos want to win more games. Wassink only threw for 74 yards against the Michigan State Spartans, but 289 against Buffalo, albeit in seven overtimes. The Broncos have no consistency on offense.
Rescheduling the game hurt the Broncos
If you missed it, the game had to be rescheduled to Sunday instead of Saturday due to a flooded field. Akron had no desire to spend another minute in watery southwest Michigan. They did their business and left.
The Broncos, however, had everything to lose by moving the game. Moving the Homecoming game lost a lot of the intangible excitement behind the game. Of course, there is a huge issue with the drop in attendance from the rescheduling. Not everybody could attend the actual game, despite the tickets still being honored.
The Broncos sold and reported about 16,500 tickets. Here’s the issue: there were not 16,500 people at the game. A rough estimate would say about 5,000 people showed up. Sure, they made all the noise thy could make, but an extra 10,000 people screaming makes a huge difference in Waldo Stadium.
As a former band geek, I would be remiss if I did not note the absence of the Bronco Marching Band. Motivation and morale could have been much better with a live marching band. I will never say this is an excuse for the Broncos, but it would have helped.
The MAC East is Akron’s to win or lose
I was not expecting to make this statement, but the Akron Zips are in the driver’s seat in the MAC East race. Akron is the only team in the MAC East without a conference loss, beating Bowling Green, Ball State, and Western Michigan already. Akron still has some difficult games forthcoming. Toledo, Buffalo, and Ohio are the biggest threats to knock off Akron in the coming weeks.
Previously, Akron lost to a powerful Iowa State, currently-#2 Penn State, and Troy, who upset #25 LSU. Those are pretty solid teams to lose to. I can see the lessons learned from the tough scheduling in the way Akron plays. Thomas Woodson looks more confident in the backfield, even in the face of pressure. I think they stand a fair shot against the remainder of the MAC.
Akron may not be the favorite to win the Mid-American Conference, or even the division. The Zips do have the advantage of a three-game win streak and being one game ahead of Ohio in the MAC East. Each other MAC East opponent is two games behind Akron, which certainly helps the Zips’ odds of playing in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit.