BOISE, IDAHO – The Akron Zips defeated the Utah State Aggies 23-21 to win the 2015 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Tuesday afternoon at Boise State University’s Albertson’s Stadium.
It was the first-ever bowl victory for Akron (8-5) since it joined the the Football Bowl Subdivision/Division I-A in 1987. In addition, the Zips 2015 season win total of eight is the most since 1985. Akron accomplished the feat on the strength . . .
The Zips struck early, taking the lead on their second possession by covering 56 yards in just three plays. The touchdown came deep in the playbook of offensive coordinator A.J. McElwee. It was a double reverse with the football in the hands of WR Terrell Goodman. He passed to QB Thomas Woodson, who caught the ball in stride down the right sideline and ran into the end zone from 14 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
UA added to that lead in the second quarter when senior PK Robert Stein kicked a 33-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Utah State (6-7) did not register a first down in the first quarter, going three-and-out on four consecutive series.
As the second quarter began the Aggies offense began to roll thanks to RB Devante Mays. His 61-yard run on the drive after the UA field goal set up Utah State’s first score. QB Kent Myers found TE Brad Swindall in the right side of the end zone from nine-yards out to narrow the UA lead to 10-7.
Akron manage one more score before intermission thanks, in part, to a big play from the defense. LB Jatavis Brown hit Myers in the backfield, causing a fumble. DE Rodney Coe picked up the football and raced 56 yards to the Aggies 12.
On the final play of the half, Stein kicked his second field goal, this time from 29 yards out to give the Zips a 13-7 lead at halftime.
Utah State, a Mountain West Conference member, took its first and only lead of the game. After receiving the second half kickoff, the Aggies marched 64 yards in seven plays. Myers found WR Hunter Sharp in the left side of the end zone from 19 yards out for a 14-13 advantage.
The Zips regained the lead for good midway through the third stanza when they capitalized on another Utah State turnover. This one was a fumble recovered by DB John Senter.
From there, Woodson, who played the entire second half in pain due to a shoulder injury, engineered an eight-play, 40-yard drive capped by an option toss to RB Donnell Alexander. He went the final two yards for the score that put the Zips back out in front, 20-14.
Though it had a lead, Akron was still in a precarious position. It got a little breathing room midway through the final quarter after the Zips used 14-plays to cover 56-yards. Stein, who earned game Most Valuable Player honors, finished the trip with his third field goal to give UA a 23-14 lead.
Utah State closed the gap in the final moments when Swindall caught his second touchdown pass of the game. The two yarder from Charlie Keeton with 1:12 remaining made the score 23-21.
Utah State was forced to try an onside kick, but Akron recovered and sealed its first bowl win.
When bowl pairings were announced, the Zips were given less than a 30 percent chance of winning. Several factors keyed Akron’s victory.
1) Defensive play. Yes, Mays ran for 124 yards. However Akron’s defense produced three turnovers, which the offense converted into 10 points. In total, the defense registered five sacks, 10 tackles for losses, three forced fumbles and four pass breakups.
2) Red zone offense. Akron was a perfect four-for-four in the red zone, an area where it had struggled during the regular season.
3) Time of possession. UA held the ball for 34:07 including 10:52 in the fourth quarter, despite being out gained in the game by USU, 363-282.