It felt like the same thing, over and over, all afternoon. The Akron offense would quickly zip down the field, then get bogged down or turn over the ball, and the Zips defense was largely helpless against the two-headed rushing attack of Remi Watson and Devon Johnson, with some decent passing by Rakeem Cato mixed in.
As I've bemoaned before in covering EMU football, teams don't tend to keep -- or at least don't tend to publicize -- their record worst performances. Today's game in InfoCision Stadium lacked even that level of intrigue, as a 48-17 loss strikes me as more of a garden variety blowout loss rather than one reaching truly epic proportions. Once you've seen 71-3 and 65-0, a 48-17 loss is nothing to get excited about, though that score is a bit deceptive, as Marshall led 41-3 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when both teams pulled their starters.
But that was part of the problem with today's game: there was just not much to get excited about. The Zips struggled to score, the Zips struggled to stop Marshall's offense, and the Zips struggled to hang on to the ball. It's ironic that we highlighted Akron's missed opportunities in recapping their last game, because those were the exact words that Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl kept coming back to after the game today.
For the offense, Pohl turned in an almost-respectable performance, completing 17 of 37 passes for 151 yards. It was the rest of his stat line that showed the problem: no passing touchdowns and two interceptions. After the game, he acknowledged the fault, saying "We kept ourselves from scoring...we failed to execute and it's that simple." The Zips' rushing attack was a bigger issue, netting just 92 yards. It was partly this that resulted in Akron's pitiful two conversions out of 15 third- and fourth-down attempts.
Meanwhile, the Marshall offense simply thundered over the Akron defenders. Rakeem Cato was decent as a passer, completing 17 of 31 passes for 210 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. But it was the Herd's rushing attack that won the game. Remi Watson, who came into the game as Marshall's #4 rusher, carried nine times for 124 yards including a spectacular 80 yard touchdown. Devon Johnson, the starting running back, carried 18 times for 103 yards and a touchdown of his own. Not to be left out, Brandon Byrd ran for a touchdown, and Rakeem Cato ran for two.
Making matters worse, the Zips gave the ball up early and often. Four of their first seven drives ended in turnovers, which resulted in 17 first-half points for the Thundering Herd. Most painful was the third, an end-zone interception followed immediately by Remi Watson's above-mentioned 80-yard touchdown run. Take those turnovers away, and even if Akron had settled for a field goal on each red-zone turnover, the halftime score would have been a manageable 14-9. In the real world, it was 31-3 at the break, and when Marshall scored on each of their first two possessions of the second half, pushing it to 41-3, the game was effectively over.
Beyond being just an uncompetitive game, it was an incredibly sloppy game. The teams combined for 30 penalties costing them 282 yards. Marshall committed 20 of those penalties for 188 yards, numbers which exceed most teams' season-to-date totals. Average penalties per team per game are usually 4 to 8, and while today's game didn't reach the all-time NCAA record (a 1986 game when Fresno State was flagged 12 times and San Jose State 24 times).
Akron head coach Terry Bowden summed it up in his characteristic southern twang: "We'd have had to have scored a lot of points today, and we didn't score nearly enough."