It’s probably college football’s most forgotten upset of 2018. Akron hadn’t defeated a Big Ten opponent since since the late-19th century under head coach John Heisman.
But on September 15, Akron’s defense did the unthinkable at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. And the leader behind the defensive masterpiece was the free safety in the #1 jersey, Alvin Davis Jr. Trailing 21-3 at halftime against a Northwestern team which would go on to win the Big Ten West and finish the season ranked No. 21, Davis caught the most important pass of the evening in the third quarter. While the Wildcats were driving in hopes of building on a 21-13 lead, a pressured Clayton Thorson tossed it to Davis while in zone coverage. The star defensive back from the Zips raced 97 yards to the end zone to lessen the deficit to 21-19.
Thanks to another defensive touchdown from linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III, Akron constructed a 32-28 fourth quarter lead. With Thorson hoping to regain the lead to stave off the upset, a deflected pass once again ended up in the hands of a well-positioned Davis. This runback would be a bit tougher as he had to navigate through Wildcats to make his way to the end zone, but the 50-yard pick six allowed Akron to gain a two-possession lead and clinch a timeless upset.
Davis wound up as the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for his 2-interception, 147-yard, 2-touchdown performance in the win. He also accumulated 10 tackles in the victory to provide Akron a 2-0 start to the season.
The Fort Lauderdale, FL, native totaled four interceptions during his junior season and all four occurred in Akron’s first four contests. He led the MAC in picks and ranked 16th in the FBS in the category. As for interception return yards, not too many defensive backs picked up as much turf as Davis. His 149 interception return yards reigned supreme in the conference and third in the entire country. No defensive back had more than two pick sixes, which Davis produced in a single half against one of the nation’s top teams. Davis’ ballhawking skills made him a worthy selection to the All-MAC First Team and the defensive MVP of the Akron Zips.
Alvin Davis LOCKED DOWN in coverage for the Zips last year. pic.twitter.com/dp3Q8fYp4h— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 5, 2019
But 2018 wasn’t his breakout year. Davis was already an established safety prior to his junior campaign. In 2017, he recorded 72 tackles, one interception, and forced one fumble en route to becoming a Second Team All-MAC member. His Zips also qualified for the MAC Championship Game after Davis led the team to a strong defensive finish in the 2017 regular season.
He received plenty of initial playing time on campus, recording an astounding 87 tackles as a true freshman. Davis has ranked second on the Zips in total tackles twice while checking in at fourth in his other season.
After 30 starts in three seasons, there’s still a full slate of football for Davis to play. He’ll earn a fourth season as a primary starter in Akron’s secondary. With a handful of interceptions and nearly a tenth of a mile in interception return yards, expect Davis to continue to produce from the free safety position as he retakes the field August 31 versus Illinois.