It’d be so much more romantic if I said Jeff Undercuffler Jr. came off the bench to lead the Zips to a come-from-behind win against a spunky FCS team. And counter to that, it’d be a lot less romantic if I said Jeff Undercuffler Jr. came off the bench for reasons undetermined and threw three interceptions. And yet, sometimes life isn’t romantic, and very frequently, college football isn’t, either.
There were fumbles. There was the turnover tire. There was a walk-off scoop-and-score. And yes, there is finally a W in Akron’s win column, as the Zips (1-1) stole a win from the jaws of defeat over the Morgan State Bears (1-1) on Saturday night.
How did I miss Akron having a turnover tire??? pic.twitter.com/vAKfI3zxDc— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) September 10, 2023
Undercuffler Jr. threw for 201 yards on 68 percent completion, along with one touchdown in the direction of Alex Adams (six receptions, 75 yards) and three completions in the direction of Morgan State defenders. including one which floated directly into the hands of Bears defensive back Jordan Toles in the endzone to seemingly ice the game with under a minute remaining.
Starter DJ Irons went 7-of-9 for 53 yards before being pulled out of the game after taking 26 yards in sacks. Undercuffler Jr. was sacked for a loss of 17 yards on the night; between the two quarterbacks, this nearly completely erased the 51 yards of actual rushing by Drake Anderson and Lorenzo Lingard, bringing the team net rushing total to 8 yards on the night.
More of the story of the night hung on defense, and each battered the opposing offense into oblivion. Overall, there were 11 punts on the night between both teams, with Akron limited to 4-of-11 on third-down attemps while MSU had to endure a meandering 2-of-16 third-down attempt rate.
Field position was prime, and points were at a premium.
Akron picked off two Bear passes, with Devontae Golden-Nelson taking one of those back for a touchdown just before the close of the first half to give Akron a 17-7 halftime lead at the break, while allowing just 231 yards and forcing a fumble. The Zips finished the game with nine tackles-for-loss and four sacks as a unit.
Morgan State, meanwhile, sacked Akron quarterbacks five times as a unit, while also recording six tackles for a loss. What truly propelled the Bears forward was their ability to turn the ball over; MSU forced three fumbles, with two recoveries, helping them to stem the Akron offense long enough for the offense to gather steam. The Bears would wind up finishing with 262 yards allowed and 10 offensive points allowed on the day.
But the play that sealed the deal came within the final minute of the game.
Up 21-17 with 1:08 remaining and with a massive interception in the endzone moments prior, the Bears needed only to run out the clock and force Akron to use their final two timeouts to seal the win. However, on third-and-nine from their own 21-yard line, Morgan State opted to bounce outside after two straight inside handoffs to try and win the game with a first-down conversion.
Duce Taylor handed the ball off to JJ Davis, who jutted out to the left side of the line to gain eight of the necessary nine yards before CJ Nunnally forced the ball out and Bryan McCoy earned his glorious turnover tire by scooping the up and taking it into the end zone for what wound up being the winning score.
Both teams move to 1-1, but their paths will diverge violently. Akron will play SEC foe Kentucky (2-0), who handled Ball State effectively in Week 1, next Saturday in what is sure to be an event involving the sport of football.
Morgan State, meanwhile, is moving on to play Towson (0-2) of the newly-christened Coastal Athletic Association.