Akron zipped out of the gate (pun intended) to a quick 21-0 lead against the Howard Bison Thursday night, and never looked back, riding it all the way to a 41-0 win to open their season. Kyle Pohl was the hero of the night, going 22-for-35 for 204 yards and four touchdowns, and adding 40 yards on the ground. The junior starting quarterback started the game off four for five, with three touchdowns to three different receivers, signalling that Akron was ready to roll from the opening whistle.
This was a big win for the Zips' program, giving them their fourth consecutive win—dating back to the final three games of 2013—their longest winning streak since 2004. It also marked the Zips' first opening game win since 2007, and sets Akron on the right path for a season that looks promising.
Pohl and the Zips floored it from the start. The second-year starting quarterback looked fabulous in the first quarter, connecting with four different receivers on his first five passes, three of them were touchdowns of 57 yards, 9 yards and 43 yards respectively. This all happened over the first five minutes of action, as Akron's defense kept Howard's offense off the field for all but about a minute of that span.
As the Zips tried to mix in a rushing attack, their offense cooled way off, going a stretch of 31:34 without scoring any points until Jawon Chisholm busted through for a 6-yard touchdown run with 8:40 to go in the third quarter. Akron's running game never got off the ground, and Pohl wound up leading the team with 40 yards on the ground. Chisholm averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in a disappointing performance.
But the aerial attack was unstoppable.
Pohl added on a 28-yard pass to Mykel Traylor-Bennett—Traylor-Bennett's second of the night—with 3:06 to go in the third, and was pulled shortly after. Backup quarterback Tommy Woodson scored the final points of the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Austin Wolf midway through the fourth quarter.
Nine different Zips' receivers caught a pass Thursday night, as Pohl executed their spread attack to perfection. Traylor-Bennett had the best night of an Akron receiver, catching four passes for 89 yards and two scores. L.T. Smith added five catches for 74 yards and a score. four receivers caught touchdowns.
While lots of attention will be paid to Terry Bowden's high-powered offensive attack that we were treated to Thursday night, the Zips defense may have been even better. not only did they hold Howard to a shutout, they allowed just 216 total yards (compared to the 513 Akron managed) and just over three yards a play. Jatavis Brown and Justin March anchored a strong linebacker corps. Nordly Capi terrorized Howard's offensive line all night too.
It's obviously all to be taken with a grain of salt: Howard isn't the stiffest of competition. But Akron showed why some media members picked them as a preseason dark horse candidate to win the East. The defense is aggressive, and well-rounded. The offensive attack can spread the ball around, and Pohl looks like he may have taken the next step as a quarterback tonight.
Akron returns to action next week at Penn State.