For the ninth straight season, and third under Terry Bowden, the Akron Zips concluded the season with a losing record. This year, the Zips weren't able to improve their record as they went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the MAC. As far as the records go, you could say that the Zips were worse this year because they won one less MAC game in 2014.
Let's take it from the top. I'll go game-by-game and explain what happened:
Game 1- vs. Howard: The Akron defense pitched a shutout, and Kyle Pohl looked like what everyone thought Kyle Pohl was going to look like. W, 41-0
Game 2- at Penn State: Kyle Pohl looks dynamite on the first drive and gets the offense into the red zone, but the freshman kicker Tom O'Leary missed a chip shot field goal. The Akron defense continued to play well by holding the Nittany Lions to seven first half points. Akron only gained 69 rushing yards and the slow offense ultimately ended Akron's hopes of an upset. L, 21-3
Game 3- vs. Marshall: This one was tough to watch. Rakeem Cato and running back Devon Johnson had a field day on the Akron defense. Marshall's 7.4 yards per carry was too much for Akron. L, 48-17
Game 4- at Pittsburgh: This game, for me, was nearly as exciting as the 2005 MAC championship. It was by far Bowden's best win so far at Akron. The defense held the Panthers to just 2 scores. Not to mention that the nation's leading rusher at the time, James Conner, couldn't get anything going against the Zips. He only rushed for 92 yards on 3.7 yards per carry. For Akron, Kyle Pohl was okay, but the best player that day was Conor Hundley who was standing in for Jawon Chisholm because Chisholm was struggling with an ankle injury. Hundley rushed 19 times for 148 yards including a 42 yard run on the first play of the second half. Starting nose tackle Cody Grice, a full back in high school, surprised everyone by rushing for two goal line touchdowns in the huge win at Heinz Field. W, 21-10
Game 5- vs. Eastern Michigan: Akron began conference play with more confidence than any Akron team in the past eight years. After a quick EMU touchdown and missed extra point, the Zips were able to hold the Eagles scoreless for the rest of the day. Kyle Pohl had a career day with 326 passing yards, which contributed to 552 yards of total offense. Four forced Eastern Michigan turnovers overshadowed 15 Akron penalties for 124 yards. W, 31-6
Game 6- vs. Miami(OH): A slow start by the Akron offense was helped out by the defense. A forced safety early on gave the Zips a 15-13 halftime lead. However, just before the half, Miami defensive lineman Bryson Albright blindsided Kyle Pohl and Pohl's head went to the turf hard. Pohl would not return, and the Zips held on. W, 29-19
Hang on, it's about to get ugly.
Game 7- at Ohio: Redshirt freshman Tommy Woodson made the start for Kyle Pohl, who had a concussion. Woodson played well early on, but began to miss more and more throws as the game went on. He was too confident in his arm and tried to do too much. Akron had a chance in a tie game with a couple of minutes left. Woodson completed a pass to Junior Andrew Pratt, and Pratt fumbled and Ohio was able to recover it into the red zone. A field goal gave the Bobcats a 23-20 lead and a Woodson interception on the last drive locked up an Ohio win. L, 23-20
Game 8- at Ball State: Again, Tommy Woodson starts. Akron came out fire hot and played with confidence. Woodson threw for a score and Hundley ran for two to make it 21-6 Akron before a late first half touchdown run by the Cardinals. 21-13 Akron at the half. Four second half interceptions by Woodson made it feel like the Cardinals never came off of the field on offense. Ball State makes it ugly. L, 35-21
Game 9- vs. Bowling Green: Akron's biggest game in nine years and Kyle Pohl throws three picks on 62 pass attempts and nothing worked for the Akron offense. I counted at least 12 drops. L, 27-10
Game 10- at Buffalo: This one was supposed to be an easy win for the Zips and it looked like it would be after DeAndre Scott picked off Joe Licata and took it to the house just 23 seconds into the game. Buffalo fumbled on its next drive, but Akron did nothing with it. Everything went wrong that night. L, 55-21
Game 11- vs. Massachusetts: Akron handled UMass with ease thanks to Blake Frohnapfel, the UMass quarterback, being sidelined with an injury. Kyle Pohl looked like the old Kyle Pohl again and threw for 277 and 2 scores. Austin Whipple of UMass threw 3 interceptions. W, 30-6
Game 12- at Kent State: One of the weirdest football games ever. No marching bands were present for either team. This one was tough because it was a rivalry. Terry Bowden and his staff coached a gem, but the players didn't execute. Senior running back Jawon Chisholm had two long touchdown runs. The first was 41 yards and the second was an 80 yarder on the first play after a 4th and inches stand by the Zips to give them a 24-20 lead with 4:30 to go. Again, Kyle Pohl was awful, and Akron lost the Wagon Wheel. They didn't play with enough emotion and didn't execute. L, 27-24
So what went wrong?
I am positive that the injury to Kyle Pohl ruined the season. He was playing his best football when he went down and he didn't look the same after the concussion. His performance all year was relatively disappointing.
Another factor that may have led to a losing record was the absence of an emotional leader in Alan "Tank" Arrington. Tank was the offensive line coach for the 2012 and 2013 season. He got on the players when they didn't have a good attitude. When someone wasn't doing what they were supposed to do, Tank got on their back. Every player listened to him. Tank lost his life in a car accident in Mississippi last December.
A pleasant surprise was nose tackle/full back Cody Grice. Cody played both sides and earned 1st team all-MAC on defense. He was the short yardage full back and rushed for 4 touchdowns. His head looked like this:
Notable players leaving include running back Jawon Chisholm. Chisholm was a four year starter and will go down in history as one of the best backs in Akron history. Akron fans will miss Chisholm because he was always working hard, no matter the team's record. Other players whose college careers have ended are linebacker C.J. Mizell, defensive end Nordly Capi (2nd team all-MAC), starting center Travis Switzer, defensive back Martel Durant, and the leader of the defense, linebacker Justin March.
Those are some big losses, but many great players are returning, too. All-MAC 1st team linebacker Jatavis Brown will return as one of the top defenders in the MAC. Cody Grice will return after playing both ways. Dylan Evans will also return as linebacker. He was playing behind three others this past season, but he is just as good. DeAndre Scott will return to the secondary along with Kris Givens and John Senter. Zach Paul, the 2nd team all-MAC punter, and kicker Robert Stein both return. Conor Hundley and D.J. Jones will be the running backs backs next season.
Kyle Pohl will likely return, but don't be so sure that he will be the starter behind center next season. Also, nearly the entire receiving corps will return for the 2015 season. Zips fans should have confidence in that group of talented players.
Finally, I want to let Akron fans know that better things lie ahead. Yes, it was another losing season, but Terry Bowden has this ship moving in the right direction. Yes, they had an easy MAC schedule, but losing is part of the growing process. Hang in there folks, things will improve.