The Akron Zips (0-2) started out strong on offense against UAB (2-0), taking a 6-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Akron RB Deltron Sands.
UAB then scored 31 straight points to take a 31-6 lead. The Zips players, to their credit, did not quit, fighting back to make the final score respectable, 31-20.
Akron’s QB Kato Nelson threw for 359 yards and 2 touchdowns and showed toughness and determination as he was under regular duress for a good part of the game due to the score and an ineffective running game, both which forced him to throw on most downs.
Akron’s ground game continued to struggle, averaging 1.2 yards per carry and 34 total yards against a UAB defense that a week ago allowed 4.5 yards per carry and 145 total yards to FCS opponent, South Alabama Hornets.
Nelson led the ground game with 31 yards on 13 carries, mostly scrambling from pressure, while the Akron running backs rushed for a total of 3 yards on 16 attempts.
Akron senior linebacker John Lako was all over the field, leading the Zips with 14 tackles. Davon’te Jest had a monster number of tackles for a nose tackle with 11. Linebacker Bubba Arslanian and safety Shawn Featherstone continued their solid play from last week with ten and nine tackles respectively.
Akron’s special teams play was a big factor in the loss, with the following notable negative plays: missed extra point, missed 35-yard FG, punts of 27 and 4 yards which led to ten UAB points, and two fumbles by the return team which were recovered by UAB.
Akron was able to keep it close enough, going into halftime down 17-6. UAB opened up the second half with two touchdowns in six minutes on touchdown passes of 40 and 76 yards. On the day, UAB’s QB Tyler Johnson III had touchdown passes of 28, 40, 49, and 76 yards.
It is going to take further review to understand how that many deep plays were completed against Akron’s defense when UAB showed it was willing and able to go deep multiple times last week against South Alabama. Also under further review was how Akron could be in what appeared to be man coverage on a 76 yard touchdown bomb when it had already given up touchdown passes of 28, 40, and 49 yards.
Akron’s secondary is young and that may have played a roll in UAB's success in the deep passing game.
Down 31-6 with nine minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, the Akron players stiffened and accomplished some things which will help momentum going forward.
Akron was able to put two scoring drives together late. Kato Nelson and the receiving corps went to work led by WR Dustin Burkhart, who had a monster game, catching 8 passes for 217 yards. Nelson dropped in a nice pass to Burkhart in the fourth quarter for a 35-yard gain which set up a six yard TD pass to Nate Stewart.
Later in the fourth quarter, Nelson hit Burkhart for 64 yards on a circus catch as the ball bounced off a UAB defender’s helmet and Burkhart caught the carom. Burkhart’s catch led to a 7-yard TD pass from Nelson to WR Timothy Scippio to close out the scoring.
Akron starts MAC play next week when they head to Central Michigan to take on the Chippewas at 3:00pm EST on ESPN+.