The Akron Zips begin their 113th season of intercollegiate football Saturday night as they travel to Norman, Oklahoma to battle the nationally ranked and tradition rich Oklahoma Sooners inside Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
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A LOOK BACK AT 2014: The Zips finished with their second straight 5-7 campaign after opening the season with a home win over FCS member Howard. They played very well at Penn State before the Nittany Lions overtook them in the fourth quarter. After a home loss to Marshall, they picked up their biggest win in the Terry Bowden era, going to Pittsburgh and defeating the Panthers 21-10 their first win over a Power 5 conference since their win at Syracuse in 2008. The Pitt victory started a three-game winning streak, adding MAC wins over Eastern Michigan and Miami. However, the win over the Redhawks victory was costly when starting QB Kyle Pohl went down late in the game with an injury. UA went into a tailspin, losing four straight before winning its home final against Massachusetts. The season ended with a heartbreaking loss at rival Kent State.
A LOOK AHEAD TO 2015: As head coach Terry Bowden enters his fourth season, the question is: Can he take the Zips to the next level and challenge for a MAC Eastern Division title?
He has not yet mentioned who is starting quarterback will be for the season opener against the Sooners.
The Zips two-deep chart for Game 1 did not designate a definite starter. More than likely it will be Pohl, who completed 54.3 percent of his passes a season ago for 2,189 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The running game saw the graduation of Jawon Chisholm, who left UA as one of the top running backs in school history. Look for Conor Hundley to be the featured back in 2015 after 540 yards and four touchdowns a season ago.
The receiving corps saw Zach D’Orzio and LT Smith graduate, so look for Tyrell Goodman and senior Andrew Pratt to be starters. Sophomore Jerome Lane moves over from the defensive secondary. Senior Imani Davis and sophomore Austin Wolf both saw time at the position a season ago.
The offensive line is experienced with five seniors. The leaders are LG Dylan Brumbaugh, LT Isiah Williams and RT Quaison Osborne. Tommy Brown who joined UA last season as a transfer from Ohio State, came in at right guard and was solid at the position by the end of the season
The defense was the strength of the team in 2014 and will be again this season. The unit is led senior NT Cody Grice who can plug the middle and also was used on offense in short yardage and goal line situations. He scored four touchdowns. Joining Grice upfront is junior DE Se’Von Pittman, who brings some nice pass-rushing skills.
The linebackers are the most experienced of the defensive 11 and are led by senior Jatavuis Brown and Dylan Evans. The secondary will be led by seniors CB John Senter and roverback Bryce Cheek.
The kicking game is one of the best in the MAC and features a pair of seniors…P Zach Paul averaged 42.5 yards per kick a season ago with 21 kicks over 50 yards and 24 landing inside the opponents 20. Robert Stein regained his place kicking duties in the Penn State game and responded going 13-of-16 on field goals making five of his last six and was a perfect 27-of-27 on extra points
ZIPS NOTES AND QUOTES: The Zips were picked to finish tied for second along with Ohio in the pre-season MAC Eastern Division poll. Bowling Green led the way. Phil Steele, in his college football preview, has UA as the second most improved team in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision, just below Miami (FLA)…This is UA’s 115th season of intercollegiate football….Since 1979 the Zips have faced 25 nationally ranked teams. They are 1-24, with the lone win coming in 2002 over Marshall at the Rubber Bowl…This is the 10th anniversary of the Zips only MAC Championship when they defeated Northern Illinois in the Championship Game, 31-30, before losing to Memphis in the Motor City Bowl
THE SERIES: This is the first ever meeting between the two schools
OKLAHOMA SOONERS (8-5, 5-4 BIG 12)
A LOOK BACK AT 2014: Oklahoma finished the 2014 season with an 8-5 record overall and 5-4 mark in the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners were tied with Texas for fourth place and faced Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl, losing to the Tigers, 40-6, in Orlando
A LOOK AHEAD TOP 2015: Head coach Bob Stoops enters his 17th season in Norman as he looks to return to the top of not only the Big 12, but in all of college football.
The Sooners offense is led by sophomore RB Smaje Perine. The Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns. He had three 200 yard rushing games a season ago. That included an FBS record of 427 yards against Kansas…Junior Baker Mayfield will get the start at QB for the season opener against the Zips. A transfer from Texas Tech, Mayfield sat out 2014, losing a year of eligibility as he transferred within the conference. In eight games with the Red Raiders he completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,315 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The receivers are led by senior WR Sterling Shepard, who had 51 catches for 970 yards and five touchdowns. The offensive line boasts four seniors, led by C Ty Darlington
The Oklahoma defense is led by its linebackers, especially junior Dominique Alexander and senior Eric Striker. The defensive line is anchored by senior Charles Tapper, while the secondary is led by junior Zach Sanchez
The kicking game is headed by fifth year senior PK Nick Hodgson and KR junior Alex Ross
SOONERS NOTES AND QUOTES: The Sooners are 92-22-2 in season openers (14-2 under Bob Stoops)…75-15-4 in home openers (15-1 under Stoops)…Oklahoma is 2-0 lifetime against the MAC, with home wins over Bowling Green in 2004 and Ball State 2011…Since Bob Stoops’ arrival in Norman, the Sooners have 168 wins, the most of any Power Five Conference school…In 2015, Oklahoma is seeking its 13th season of 10 or more wins under the guidance of Stoops, who is a native of Youngstown, Ohio….Samaje Perine rushed for 1,713 yards, the second most by a Sooner freshman running back in history. Adrian Peterson holds the top mark with 1,925 in 2004.