It was a harrowing day for the Akron Zips (2-4, 1-1 MAC) in the first half of the proceedings, as the offense collectively picked up -14 yards on their first 12 plays of the game, and the defense allowed BGSU to climb up to a quick 13-0 lead with 6:28 remaining in the second quarter.
But something ignited the Zips on the next possession, as starting QB Kato Nelson pulled together a string of aggressive throws downfield, including a 75-yard nullified touchdown and a 46-yard reception to get Akron inside the BGSU end, to set up a drive which would culminate in a Blake Hester touchdown to bring the score to 13-7 with just six minutes remaining.
Tyson Durant would bring a stop to BGSU’s next scoring chance in the first half, jumping in front of an errant Matt McDonald pass to kill the ensuing drive, and give Akron a scoring opportunity. A Corey Smigel kick attempt from 35 yards out was blocked by Sy Dabney, ensuring the 13-7 margin stayed at the half.
That’s where the score would be to start the third quarter, but that wasn’t where it would stop, as the Zips were able to post 28 more unanswered points en route to a blowout of the homestanding Bowling Green Falcons (2-4, 0-2 MAC) by a final score of 35-20.
The win is Akron’s first road win since Oct. 20, 2018, when they took down the Kent State Golden Flashes by a final score of 24-23 at Dix Stadium. It also marked BGSU’s second-straight loss to the Zips in as many seasons.
It was an unconventional road to get to the final score, as Bowling Green would sandwich an Akron three-and-out with a 47-yard Tyrese Broden reception touchdown and a Nate Needham field goal to go up 10-0 with 5:45 remaining in the first quarter.
The floor continued to crumble for Akron early on, giving up a fumble after one play to give BGSU the ball back at the Zips’ 29-yard line. BGSU got up to the Akron 1-yard line, but in a stunning turnabout, the Zips defense held strong, declining three different Falcon runners a touchdown to force a turnover on downs.
Akron once again found themselves in a complicated way when Kato Nelson was intercepted by Jordan Anderson to grant the ball at the Akron 24-yard line. The Falcons offense, in their third redzone trip in as many possessions, stalled out once again inside the Akron 10, and kicked for the field goal, creating the 13-0 margin above.
Fast forward to the third quarter, and it became a whole different ballgame.
Third-string QB Zach Gibson entered the game for the Zips after the half, replacing an injured Kato Nelson and playing above DJ Irons, who was declared out with injury prior to the game.
He would lead the Zips on four successive touchdown drives, with wide receiver Konata Mumpfield starting up the party with two back-to-back highlight-reel touchdowns from one yard out and nine yards out, respectively, and tight end Nik Ognenovic hauling in a reception from 21 yards out to complete the Zips aerial attack.
Zips RB Blake Hester showed out as well, getting his second touchdown of the day on a 37-yard scamper to complete the 35-point unanswered streak and put Akron up 35-13 on the shell-shocked Falcons.
The defense was also a major contributor to the cause, with Jaylen Kelly-Powell nabbing an Jaison Patterson fumble off a Jalen Hooks peanut punch strip after the first Gibson-to-Mumpfield touchdown to set up the second strike, and Tyson Durant strip fumbling Matt McDonald to stop another drive in the second half.
Kelly-Powell had another interception in the endzone on a McDonald attempt to stop another promising drive to seal the deal late in the game.
Tyrese Broden would score a late touchdown for BGSU to put the score at its final tally of 35-20 with 8:03 remaining in the game.
Zach Gibson was the star of the show for Akron, finishing his afternoon 14-of-15 for 177 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. Kato Nelson’s effective scoring drive put his numbers into respectability, as he finished 6-of-10 for 91 yards, with one interception.
Blake Hester led all rushers with 20 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns, bookmarking the Zips’ 35-point rally. Konata Mumphfield rose up to the action once again for Akron, notching six receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns. No other receiver contrinuted more than three receptions (Michael Mathison for 10 yards) or 47 yards (George Qualls in his lone reception) for Akron.
Defensively, it was a performance for the ages for Akron, who were without starters Bubba Arslenian and Reggie Corner Jr.
Jaylen Kelly-Powell paced the Akron defensive performance, with a fumble recovery and an interception to go with three tackles. Tyson Durant’s strip sack and intercpetion were also major contributions. Andrew Behm filled in admirably at linebacker, leading the Zips with 10 tackles, while Juan Jarret led the team in sacks with 1.5.
For Bowling Green, it was a day to forget, with Matt McDonald finishing 21-of-35 for 235 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, with both scores to Tyrese Broden (four receptions for 111 yards) sandwiching the Falcons scoring account.
Jaison Patterson paced the BGSU backs, with 15 carries for 79 yards, but also had a key fumble. WR Austin Osborne (35 yards) and RB Taron Keith (31 yards) tied for the team lead in receptions, while Cavon Croom collected 43 yards on two receptions to finish second on the receiving chart.
LB Darren Anders once again led the Falcons defensive effort, with 10 total tackles. 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack on the day. Fellow backer Karl Brooks made camp in the backfield, with 3.5 tackles-for-loss and two sacks to go with four tackles. Sy Dabney made contributions on both defense and special teams, with eight tackles, one pass break-up and a punt block. Jordan Anderson had BGSU’s lone interception of the day.
Akron will now look forward to traveling to Oxford to face the Miami RedHawks next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern, while BGSU will travel to DeKalb next Saturday to face Northern Illinois at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.