With just under four minutes remaining, the Akron Zips had forced an incompletion on third down and 11, thanks to a timely pass break-up by a leaping AJ Watts on a Matt McDonald pass to Javonte Kinsey along the sidelines.
With the line of scrimmage at their own one-yard line, and trailing 10-3, the Falcons had no choice but to send punter Mason Lawler out to kick from the back of his own endzone to try and pin Akron as far back as possible. It wasn’t meant to be, as running back Michiah Burton got his hands on the ball, which floated to the waiting arms of reserve receiver Gavin Blunt, who ran in for the special teams touchdown to give Akron a firm 17-3 lead just before the end of the second half.
It was enough to break the back of an emotionally tired BGSU team, as Akron would go on to score 14 more points after that en route to a 31-3 victory at InfoCision Stadium, snapping a 21-game losing streak dating back to October 27, 2018, when they defeated Central Michigan 17-10 at home.
It was Akron who started the scoring account, thanks to an early BGSU fumble on the first punt of the afternoon, which allowed the Zips a mulligan on their opening drive. Corey Smigel’s field goal from about 38 yards out to put the score at 3-0 early.
BGSU got to work on the next offensive drive, getting to Akron’s five-yard line before Matt McDonald took a bad sack to lose eight yards on second down. He would recoup the lose yards on a throw to Julian Ortega-Jones, but the damage was done, and the Falcons settled for what turned out to be their only score of the day with a 23-yard field goal to tie the game.
The next drive looked all but dead for the Zips after Teon Dollard was stopped four yards short of the first down marker on 3rd and 7 on the BGSU side of midfield, but Kholbe Coleman drew a bad personal foul after the whistle to give Akron new life at the BGSU 27. Four plays later, the Zips would jump to the lead with a 12-yard pass from Zach Gibson to George Qualls Jr. to go up 10-3 at the 11:54 mark of the second quarter.
With a chance to gap the divide on the next drive, the Falcons got a lucky break with a 53-yard catch-and-run by Quintin Morris to set up great field position at the Akron 20-yard line. The offense immediately stalled, with one run for no gain by Andrew Clair and two incomplete passes by McDonald. Needham trotted out for a 38-yard attempt, but it sailed wide and Akron took over possession.
BGSU would force the Zips to punt once again on the ensuing drive, but went three-and-out when they gained possession, setting up the punt block touchdown.
The Zips never looked back, forcing two Falcon turnovers at the start of the second half, including an AJ Watts Jr. interception of LeBronz Davis to start the half, and a Bubba Arslenian strip fumble of Andrew Clair deep inside Akron territory on what was BGSU’s best drive of the day.
For the Akron offense, Zach Gibson was mistake-free, going 9-of-17 for 87 yards and a touchdown on the day. Qualls (four receptions, 23 yards, one touchdown) led the Zip receivers in receptions and touchdowns on the day, while Tristian Brank (two receptions, 36 yards) led the team in receiving yards.
Teon Dollard (26 carries, 185 yards, two touchdowns) would get both of his touchdowns in the second half to ice the game for the Zips, in what proved to be a dominant effort. Jeremiah Knight (five carries, 32 yards) also proved an effective carrier in limited snaps.
Arslenian was once again the leader defensively for the Zips, recording 16 total tackles (more than double the second-leading tackler,) two tackles-for-loss, a sack and a forced fumble. AJ Watts had the key pass break-up and interception which proved to kill any hope of a comeback, while also collecting four tackles. Ja’Quize Cross picked up three tackles-for-loss, five total tackles and a sack on the day as well from the defensive line.
The three forced turnovers proved to be pivotal for Akron, as they were outgained by BGSU, held the ball less, and converted less on third down.
BGSU once again struggled to get much going offensively, with Matt McDonald once again being a non-factor, going 14-of-26 for 187 yards. Terrion Stewart was once again a bright spot on the offense, gaining 91 yards on 14 carries for the Falcons, while Quintin Morris proved a security blanket with six receptions for 83 yards.
Defensiely for BGSU, Darren Anders and Kholbe Coleman tied for the team lead in total tackles (8) and each picked up a tackle-for-assist as well. Coleman also had an additional sack as well, joining Karl Brooks (three tackles, two tackles-for-loss, two sacks) and Roland Walker (five total tackles, three tackles-for-loss, one sacks) on that list.
The newly 1-4 Zips will conclude their season against Buffalo, who will be rested off a COVID break, while the 0-5 Falcons will face Miami, who is also coming off a COVID break. Both games are scheduled to take place on Sat., Dec. 12, but subject to change.