AKRON, OHIO – After being totally dominated by the nationally-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in their season opener, the Akron Zips took out all of their frustrations on Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the home opener Saturday evening at InfoCision Stadium, defeating the Golden Lions 52-3.
With the victory, Akron (1-1) snapped . . .
“It was very important we come out and we set the tempo, and the way we set the tempo is we’re going to play as hard as we can -- three-and-out on defense, drive right down their throats, three-and-out, drive right down the field and score. That’s the way you have to start, Zips head coach Terry Bowden said.
“After that, it was pretty much going to go in that direction. We got the game well under control at halftime. Second half, I wanted us to come out there and run the ball at them and drive. I was awful proud of our football team knowing what they had to do tonight”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-1), playing a Mid-American Conference opponent for the first time in school history, managed only 145 yards of total offense and just three points. That came on a 25-yard field goal by Jamie Gillian midway through the second quarter.
“We didn’t play very physical tonight” Golden Lions head coach Monte Coleman said. “The Zips played a lot more physical and it was very obvious in the game. I think that was why the score got lopsided, because they played hard. It wasn’t that we didn’t play hard, we just didn’t play physical enough.”
Graduate player Warren Ball had 20 carries for 146 yards and scored three touchdowns for Akron, while senior QB Thomas Woodson completed 15-of-21 passes for 186 yards and a score as the first team offense scored 38 points and amassed 333 yards in two and a half quarters.
Ball came to the Zips last season after graduating from Ohio State and was a part of its 2015 National Championship team. He gained 128 yards in his UA debut in last season’s opener a win over VMI. In the next game at Wisconsin, he broke his ankle and was finished for the season. The school petioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility and it was granted.
When asked about his performance Ball said, “First and foremost, it was a great team win. My offense linemen came out and did a great job with their blocking up front, making my job easier.” His three rushing touchdowns were the first for a Zip runner since Connor Hundley in 2015.
UA put its stamp on this contest by scoring on its first two possessions of the contest. The first was a 56-yard drive in six plays, with Ball scoring from 12 yards out. The second took seven plays, covering 80 yards. Woodson connected with fifth-year WR A.J. Coney on a bullet pass to the left side of the end zone.
The Blue and Gold built a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter when senior LB Ulysses Gilbert intercepted a Brandon Duncan pass and took it 34 yards for a touchdown. For Gilbert, the defending MAC defensive player of the year, it was his first career interception and first touchdown. Gilbert led the defense with 10 total tackles (six solo)
The home team had a 31-3 lead at halftime. They took the second half kickoff and went on a 65-yard, 13-play drive using the running strength of Ball, who punched it in from eight yards out.
After that, the Zips went to their second and third teamers, who also had success against the UAPB defense. QB Cato Nelson led the team on a 52-yard drive midway through the period. Van Williams ran up the middle and scored from 12 yards away on the 10th play of the drive.
In the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman Robbie Kelley engineered UA’s final scoring drive of the evening -- an eight-play, 63-yard march ending with sophomore RB Deltron Sands doing most of the worj and capped the drive with a one yard plunge.
“We tried to get as many people played as we could and let the final score go out as best it could.” Bowden said.
UA returns to action next Saturday (noon) against the Cyclones of Iowa State from the Big-12 Conference. ISU comes into the game at 1-1 after losing at home to arch rival Iowa in overtime.