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Five Things Learned: Akron Zips vs Central Michigan Chippewas

CMU bounces back from a tough week two and dominates Akron at home.

James H. Jimenez

CMU and Akron faced off in Mt. Pleasant for the first conference matchup of the 2019 season, and for now, CMU holds the MAC West Division lead after taking care of business in a 45-24 win which was really not as close as the box score indicated.

Once again, we brought together our CMU reporter, James Jimenez, and our AKron reporter, Keith Gregorski, to talk about their observations of the game.


1. CMU’s players are resilient:

Week 2 ended with CMU being blanked by Wisconsin 61-0, and losing their starting QB Quinten Dormady and RB Jonathan Ward. It was gut-check time for CMU in Week 3, as they had the potential to turn the page on the season. CMU came out fast in the game against Akron, taking a 27-10 lead into half-time, and cruising to win 45-24 win.

That half-time score is even deceiving, as the Zips had to lead a hectic, 35-second drive at the end of the half to sneak in a touchdown to bring the score to 27-10. Prior to that, the Zips struggled to get anything going, not scoring until the 7:48 mark of the second quarter.

That’s a credit to the CMU defense, which forced Akron into making very bad decisions all day and benefitted from it. Their contain on Kato Nelson worked for the large part, as Nelson was sacked seven times on the day and Nelson forced a lot of passes, finishing with a compeltion rating of 50 percent. On the day, the defense limited Akron to just 329 yards on the day and found themselves in the backfield more often than not, with the Zips rushing offense picking up a measely 47 yards as a unit.

The backups at the offensive skill positions for CMU looked right at home going against the Zips after being unable to get anything going against Wisconsin. Kobe Lewis was especially a revelation in place of the injured Jonathan Ward, gaining 148 yards on 27 carries, with three touchdowns on the day. (We’ll talk more about the others in a second.)


2. Things might be alright at CMU with QB David Moore at the helm:

Moore came in for an injured Dormady and did well with 316 passing yards, 65% completion rate, and two touchdowns. We’ll learn a lot more about Moore when CMU travels to Miami to play the Hurricanes in Week 4, but there’s a lot to be happy about if you’re a Chippewa fan.

Moore showed great speed and power on his throws, and didn’t make a lot of major mistakes in his first career start, finishing the day 20-of-31 passing for 316 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Moore wasn’t always the most accurate thrower on the day (in fact, receivers often had to jump or dive for throws), but he could really get the ball into the windows he needed them to go to, and that’s an encouraging sign.

Overall, his performance was abotu on par with Dormady’s in Week 1 against Albany, so one could say that the offense didn’t miss a beat. With Dormady projected to be out for several weeks, it’s natural to assume that Moore will be the starter during that time. He showed a lot of good against Akron, and also showed there’s plenty to build upon.


3. A core group of targets is emerging in CMU’s passing game

A nice trio of targets in the passing game are emerging for CMU, where TE Tony Poljan and WRs Kalil Pimpleton and Tyrone Scott have combined for 37 receptions, 468 yards, and five touchdowns in three games.

That core showed how invaluable it is to the offense once again against Akron.

Tyrone Scott re-emerged as a receiving option after getting blanked against Wisconsin, with four receptions for 82 yards, finishing third on the team in both those catagories.

Poljan had several highlight reel plays, including him hurdling over a defender to get into the redzone, a one-handed snagging catch in traffic to get CMU a first down and a nice endzone target for a touchdown on the way to a five catch, 90 yard performance.

Kalil Pimpleton came alive once again after struggling to get going against a very physical Wisconsin defense, leading the Chips in receptions (seven), yards (113) and receiving touchdowns (tied with one) on the day, and even threw in a fantastic jet sweep fake pass to Scott for a 28-yard gain on the first drive of the game.

Moving forward, CMU will likely incorporate all three of these receivers into the offense more often with more exotic or different looks. In my estimation, it’s safe to say that Scott has earned a starting reciever role over listed starter Ja’Corey Sullivan (one reception for eight yards in two games.)


4. Akron’s special teams played its best game of the year

After a few costly weeks of special teams play, Akron put together its best outing of the year. Kicker Jerry Fitschen hit his only field goal attempt and hit all his extra points for 6 points on the day. Fitschen also hit a nice onside kick which was recovered by Akron.

Michael Mathison returned two kickoffs for 40+ yards, setting up the Zips with some good field position.

Akron’s punting game had its best game of the year with a 35.7 yard average per punt with but still had a 26 yard punt which gave CMU the ball near midfield.


5. Akron’s offense and defense are still works in progress

Akron adds the hashtag ‘#HereToDevelop’ to all of its tweets and that is where the offense and defense stands after three weeks.

Offense

QB Kato Nelson and the wide receiving group have had some moments, especially in the second half of games, but the offense as a whole is not working consistently enough.

Akron is tied for second in the FBS with 22 punts.

Akron’s offense converted 5 of 21 3rd and 4th downs against CMU yesterday, a 23.8% conversion rate. Compare that with CMU yesterday, who converted 7-14 of 3rd and 4th down attempts for 50% conversion rate.

Akron leads the FBS in sacks allowed with 18, including the seven sacks by Central Michigan yesterday.

Akron running game is a work-in-progress as the Zips are ranked 129th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing yards per game and rushing yards per carry average. Removing the QB stats from Akron’s rushing total, Akron moves into to a tie for 128th in rushing yards per carry average. The Zips finished the game against CMU with their season average in yards per carry: 1.4.

Defense

Akron is not able to get pressure on the opposing QB and CMU had more than five seconds to throw on several plays. Akron is ranked 120th in the FBS in sacks with two.

Akron’s defense is struggling defending big passing plays. CMU completed passes of 28, 37, and 41 yards in the first quarter and passes of 24 and 35 yards in the second quarter.