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2019 MAC Football Week 1 Game Recap: Illinois dominates Akron, 42-3

Tough start to the Tom Arth era in Akron, as the Zips showed no pep.

NCAA Football: Akron at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

An improved Illinois Fighting Illini squad dominated the Akron Zips in all phases of the game, winning 42-3 in Akron head coach Tom Arth’s Zips debut.

Illinois’ QB Brandon Peters looked good in his debut, throwing for 163 yards and three scores while adding 36 yards on the ground and another score in the running game.

Akron’s kickoff to start the game was short and gave Illinois the ball in great field position, at its 37 yard line. Akron’s defense was unable to stop the run and Illinois scored on its first possession, when RB Reggie Corbin capped-off a 10-play, 63-yard drive with a three-yard TD run.

Akron responded with what turned out to be its best drive in the game. Akron used multiple WR looks and backfield motion to drive 50 yards in 11-plays for a 43 yard FG by Jerry Fitschen.

This was Akron’s best special team’s moment of the day after its punt team could only generate a 30.4 yard average on 7 punts and the FG team missed its other attempt.

Akron’s defense and offense could generate little else in the first half outside of a few series on defense.

Akron’s defense had back-to-back productive series in the second quarter, including holding Illinois to no score after Akron turned the ball over on its side of the field. LB Bubba Arslanian had a sack and LB John Lako broke up a 3rd-down pass during those series.

Arslanian finished as the leader in tackles with 11.

Akron played conservatively on the defense in the first half employing zones with little blitzing. Illinois had plenty of time to throw against an ineffective three or four man rush, and picked Akron’s defense apart through the air on several plays.

Akron was unable to consistently run or pass against Illinois after the opening drive. Akron’s QB Kato Nelson wasn’t consistently able to find passing lanes as Illinois was able to get pressure with its defensive line, dropping 7 players in a defensive zone.

Nelson had a fumble and interception in the first half.

Akron WR Nate Stewart had a productive day with 5 catches for 79 yards.

Illinois blended the run and the pass to score three more times, taking a 28-3 lead into halftime.

Illinois’ transfers made a big difference in the game with QB Peters accounting for 4 touchdowns and DE Oluwole Betiku making six tackles and one-and-a-half sacks.

Illinois slowed the game down in the second half and Akron was unable to move the ball regularly on offense.

Akron takes on UAB at noon EST on Sept. 7, with the game to be carried on CBS Sports Network.