“It’s not how you start, but how you finish.”
That saying perfectly fits the Akron Zips 2015 football season.
After losing their first two games against Oklahoma and Pittsburgh, the Akron Blue and Gold won seven of their last ten games. That stretch included a four-game winning streak, the longest since Terry Bowden has been head coach. UA capped the regular season with a 20-0 shutout of arch rival Kent State regaining possession of the Wagon Wheel Trophy.
The Zips 7-5 record earned them their second bowl appearance since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision/Division I-A in 1987 -- a trip to Boise, Idaho and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Akron will face the Utah State Aggies from the Mountain West Conference on the famous blue turf at Boise State University’s Albertson’s Stadium
Here's more on the two teams . . .
THE ROAD TO BOISE:
The Zips were picked to finish in a tie for second (with Ohio) in the Eastern Division in the pre-season MAC poll. Akron opened the 2015 season losing to nationally ranked Oklahoma, 41-3, and then fell to the Pittsburgh Panthers in the home opener, 24-7.
UA collected its first victory of the season in a 52-9 rout of FCS member Savannah State at home before defeating the Rajun Cajuns of Louisiana (Sun Belt) 35-14.
After opening MAC play on October 3 with a 14-12 home loss to Ohio, UA rebounded with a 47-21 win at Eastern Michigan
Eventual MAC East champ Bowling Green administered a 59-10 beatdown after a 14-6 loss on halloween to Central Michigan.
The Zips ended the losing streak with a win against UMass at Foxboro…A win at Miami on November 7th was UA’s fourth away from home in 2015 ending with a 4-2 mark…The 42-21 home win over Buffalo made the Zips bowl eligible and ended a two-game MAC losing streak at home. The regular season ended with a 20-0 shutout of the Golden Flashes, the first shutout of any kind since 2002 and the first over their arch rival since 1985
OFFENSE: UA is averaging 24 points and 364.1 yards per game
RUSHING: Conor Hundley 188 carries-883 yards 10 touchdowns
PASSING: Thomas Woodson 148-278-10 2034 yards 16 touchdowns
RECEIVING: Imani Davis 46 receptions-593 yards three touchdowns
DEFENSE: The Zips are allowing 21.5 points and 328.5 yards per game
TACKLES: LB Jatavis Brown (57 solo-51 assists-108 total)
TACKLES FOR LOSSES: Brown 17.5-98 yards
SACKS: Brown 10 ½ - 80 yards
INTERCEPTIONS: CB DeAndre Scott 6-14
PASS BREAKUPS: Scott 10
PUNTING: Zach Paul 71-41.2 yards per kick (12 kicks 50 or more yards)
PLACE KICKING: Robert Stein 12-19 FG/34-36 PAT (70 points)
KICK RETURNS: Van Edwards (KR) 19-20.8 yds avg A.J. Coney (PR) 17-4.3
ZIPS FBS BOWL HISTORY:
Akron has only one other FBS bowl game to its credit, that being in 2005 when it lost to Memphis in the Motor City Bowl at Ford Field in Detrot 38-31. In the game QB Luke Getzy passed for 455 yards and three touchdowns. However, the UA defense had no answer to contain the Tigers DeAngelo Williams, who rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns
LB Jatavis Brown was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year…Brown was the only Zip to be named to the All-MAC first team, while NT Cody Grice was named to the second team, with OT Isiah Williams, DL Rodney Coe, and DL Jamal Marcus named to the third team…Offensive Coordinator A.J. McElwee was named to the inaugural American Football Coaches Association 30 under 30 coaches Leadership Institute…In 2015, the Zips played five bowl teams Oklahoma (College Football Playoff-Cotton Bowl), Pittsburgh (Military), Ohio (Camellia), Bowling Green (GoDaddy), and Central Michigan (Quick Lane).
The Zips come into the game ranked third in the FBS in rushing defense allowing just 89.8 yards per game…17th in total defense (328.5)…The 2015 Zips will be head coach Terry Bowden’s fourth bowl game he had three at Auburn (1995 Outback Bowl-Penn State43-14 L, 1996 Independence Bowl-Army 32-29 W, and 1997 Peach Bowl-Clemson 21-17 W).
NT Cody Grice is second on the all-time games played list with 48 and first all-time in starts. In addition, when he comes into the game on offense he has not had a carry for negative yardage over the past two seasons (39 carries)…Zips are 2-2 lifetime against the current teams of the Mountain West Conference (0-1 vs. San Diego State, 1-0 vs. UNLV, and 0-1 vs. Boise State, 1-0 vs. New Mexico) and just the second game since being in the FBS…The game at Boise marked just the third time in the FBS/DI-A era that the Zips have played west of the Rocky Mountains (1987 at Oregon State 42-26 L & 1988 at New Mexico 30-28 W)
The game is the first ever meeting between the two schools
UTAH STATE AGGIES (6-6, 5-3 MOUNTAIN WEST - MOUNTAIN DIVISION)
THE ROAD TO BOISE;
Under the leadership of third year head coach Matt Wells, the Aggies owned one of the most experienced teams in the FBS. However, they also had one of the toughest schedules.
The season began with a home win over FCS Southern Utah, followed by two losses against PAC-12 Opposition at Utah (who beat Michigan the previous week) and at Washington…A win in the MW over Colorado State sparked a three-game winning streak, which included victories over Fresno State and nationally ranked Boise State. Then came a stretch of three losses in four games, the only win coming at home against Wyoming. Losses wee against San Diego State (away), New Mexico, and Air Force. USU became bowl eligible with a home win over Nevada before ending the season with a loss at Brigham Young.
OFFENSE; USU is averaging 29.7 points & 370.8 yards per game
RUSHING: Devante Mays 153 carries-842 yards nine touchdowns
PASSING: Kent Myers 107-179-3 1470 yards 14 touchdown
RECEIVING: Hunter Sharp 60-746 eight touchdowns
DEFENSE: The Aggies are allowing 27 points & 336.7 yards per game
TOTAL TACKLES: Nick Vigil 65-75-140
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Kyler Fackrell 13.5-35 yards
SACKS: Three with four
INTERCEPTIONS:DB Devin Centers 3-39 yards
PUNTING: Aaron Dalton 66– 41.0 avg. per kick
PLACE KICKING: Brock Warren 8-11 FG / 36-38 PAT 60 points
KICK RETURNS: Kenne Williams 10-31.5 yds per return
PUNT RETURNS: Andrew Rodriguez 28-9.7 avg per return one touchdown
AGGIES BOWL HISTORY:
Utah State will be playing a bowl game for the 10th time in its history, dating back to the 1946 Raisin Bowl, where they lost to San Jose State 20-0…This is the fifth consecutive season the Aggies will be playing in a bowl game. Last season, they defeated Texas-El Paso 21-6 at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. This will be the fourth time they have played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (2011-Ohio 24-23 L, 2012-Toledo 41-15 W). The Aggies also played in 1997 when it was the Humanitarian Bowl, losing to Cincinnati 35-19
Aggies are ranked 14th in the FBS on pass defense, allowing just 180.4 yards per game and are 14th in kickoff returns, averaging 25.5 yards per return…USU has a school record 18 players who have scored at least one touchdown this season.
USU is 9-2 lifetime against the MAC (2-0 vs. Bowling Green, 2-0 vs Northern Illinois, 1-0 vs Ball State, 1-0 vs Toledo, 1-0 vs Western Michigan, 1-1 vs Kent State, 1-1 vs Ohio)…Utah State is 5-3 against schools from Ohio…Aggies faced nine owl teams in 2015 (Utah & Brigham Young-Royal Purple Las Vegas, Colorado State & Nevada-Arizona, Boise State-San Diego County Pointsettia, Washington-Heart of Dallas, San Diego State-Hawai’i, New Mexico-Gildan New Mexico, Air Force-Armed Forces).
The 2015 senior class is the winningest in Utah State football history (37 victories. The Aggies had two first team All-MWC honors (Kyler, Fackrell & Nick Vigil)…Utah State is 41- 18 over their last 59 games
Matt Wells is one of 14 FBS head coaches at their alma mater. That group includes John Bonamego-Central Michigan and Paul Haynes-Kent State…Utah State is one of seven FBS schools to have new offensive and defensive coordinators to start the season.