Last Saturday at InfoCision Stadium, the Akron Zips ran into college football’s version of a buzz saw in the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Blue and Gold allowed 48 points, 526 yards of total offense and committed four turnovers as they saw their four game home winning streak come to a screeching halt.
This Saturday, the Zips look to end a two-game losing streak as they make the short trek east to Pittsburgh to face a 3-1 Panthers squad out of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Pitt lost at home to Iowa last week after leading for much of the game.
LAST TIME OUT: Akron lost to Marshall, 48-17. The visitors from Conference USA scored on their first four possessions in building a 31-3 halftime lead. MU scored a touchdown on its first possession of the third quarter to ice the outcome. UA did score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the result closer on the scoreboard than it had been on the field.
Akron hurt its own cause by committed four turnovers (two lost fumbles and two interceptions) after not committing one in the first two games. It didn’t help that the Zips played the game without their two top running backs (Jawon Chisholm and Conor Hundley) and one of their top defensive players (LB Justin March) -- all out with injuries.
Sophomore QB Kyle Pohl was 12-of-17 for 151 yards with two interceptions before being relieved in the fourth quarter by redshirt freshman Tommy Woodson, who engineered the two scoring drives.
Redshirt freshman RB Manny Morgan led the ground game with 36 yards, which included an 11-yard touchdown. Junior WR Zach D’ Orazio paced the passing game with five receptions for 69 yards. LB Jatavius Brown led the defense with eight total tackles (five solo)
ON THE YEAR: As a team UA is averaging 377.7 yards per game on offense while scoring 20.3 pts per game. Defensively, the Zips are allowing 23 points per game (MAC second) and 389 total yards per game…Individually, Kyle Pohl has completed 53.8 percent of his passes (64-of-119) for 667 yards with four touchdowns (all coming in the season opening win over Howard) and two interceptions (that came last Saturday)…Pohl also leads all rushers after three games with 61 yards on 22 carries…His 245.3 total yards per game is fifth in the MAC…D’Orazio leads the receivers with 14 catches for 167 yards…LB Jatavis Brown leads the defense with 19 total tackles (10 solo) with three tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a forced fumble…Sophomore Zach Paul is third in the MAC in punting averaging 44.5 yards per kick
OVERVIEW: UA opened the 2014 season with a 41-0 shutout of Howard at home their second shutout since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1987 and their first shutout in a season opener since 1986 when they blanked Salem College 35-0 at the Rubber Bowl. Akron amassed 513 yards of total offense while holding the Bison to just 216…At Penn State, the Zips moved the ball on their first possession reaching the PSU 11 but failed to get any points. It would come back to haunt them as they played with the Nittany Lions on even terms for three quarters before the home team pulled away in the fourth quarter…UA is in a stretch of three games out of four at home, with the lone road tilt being this game with Pitt…They return home next Saturday for the MAC opener against Eastern Michigan…The combined record of the last three opponents (PSU, Marshall, Pitt) is 11-1
NOTES & QUOTES: Several Zips are moving up the career statistics list. Senior RB Jawon Chisholm who did not play last week due to an ankle injury has 50 yards rushing so far this season and sits sixth on the all-time rushing list with 2,834 yards (needing 14 to move into fifth place) along with 79 career receptions the second most by a running back…Kyle Pohl is seventh on the all-time passing yard category with 3,467…Fifth year senior WR Keith Sconiers had one reception against Marshall, moving him into a tie for ninth place on the all-time with 104…PK Robert Stein has made his last six field goals attempts and eight of his last nine dating back to last season. He connected on a 24-yarder last week vs MU…Zips last game against the ACC was 2010 when they lost to Syracuse 29-3 at home …UA has five players on its current roster from Western Pennsylvania with three of them from the Pittsburgh area…UA’s last game in an NFL Stadium was 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles)…losing to Temple 30-0. Pitt shares Heinz Field with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
THE SERIES: The game is the third lifetime between the two schools. Both were played in Pittsburgh (1900 and 1988). The last meeting was at Pitt Stadium on campus -- a 35-0 Panthers victory as QB Matt Lytle passed for 208 yards and three touchdowns. The Zips offense managed 97 yards the entire afternoon. QB James Washington completed just 3-of-19 passes for 23 yards with two interceptions. Lavel Bailey caught two of them for 16 yards while Greg Lomax had 60 yards rushing on 16 attempts…The two teams will meet next season at InfoCision Stadium
PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (3-1, 1-0 ACC)
LAST TIME OUT: September 20, losing to Iowa at Heinz Field, 24-20. It was a game that saw the Panthers hold a 17-7 halftime lead and a 20-17 advantage going into the fourth quarter. However, Iowa took the lead for good on a one-yard touchdown run by RB Mark Weisman, his second of the game. Over the 60 minutes, Pitt had 185 yards rushing and 435 yards of total offense. RB James Conner gained 155 yards on the ground along with a touchdown in the second quarter. Sophomore QB Chad Voyrik completed 19-of-29 passes for 250 yards. Another sophomore, WR Tyler Boyd had 10 receptions for 153 yards
ON THE YEAR: As a team, Pitt offensively is averaging 38.5 points and 443 total yards over the first four games. The defense, meanwhile, is allowing just 17.9 pts and 236 total yards per contest…Conner leads not only the team, but the entire Football Bowl Subdivision with 699 rushing yards (174.8 yds. per game) and nine touchdowns…Voytik has completed 60.8 percent of his passes (48-of-79) for 534 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions…Boyd leads the receiving corps with 21 catches for 293 yards and four scores…Defensively, Senior LB Anthony Gonzalez leads the Panthers with 22 total tackles (16 solo) he also has two tackles for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery
OVERVIEW: Pitt began the 2014 season with a 62-0 shutout home win over FCS opponent Delaware, the most lopsided season opening wins in 101 years. Conner rushed for 153 yards and scored four touchdowns,part of an afternoon that saw the offense amass 501 total yards.
The next week, Pitt opened ACC play at Boston College before a national television audience, defeating the Eagles, 30-26, as Conner rushed for 214 yards and a score. Week three saw the Panthers in South Florida to battle Florida International (Conference USA). Pitt came away with a 42-25 win as Conner rushed for 177 yards and three scores, Voytik had 114 yards and a score as Pitt had 321 yards on the ground…The game with UA is the Panthers final non-conference game of the season as they get back into ACC play next Saturday at Virginia (who is playing Kent State this week in Charlottesville)
NOTES AND QUOTES: Pitt is coached by Paul Chryst who is in his third season and has a current record of 16-14. He came from Wisconsin, where he spent seven seasons under Barry Alvarez and Brett Bielema (six seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach). During his last season in Madison, he tutored Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks).
The Badgers twice went to the Rose Bowl in 2011 and 2012 during his tenure. He also coached at Oregon State under former NFL and CFL head coach Mike Riley and has pro experience in the NFL, CFL, and the old World League of American Football. Paul is the younger brother of former MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst
In their history, Pitt is 30-3 lifetime against current MAC teams (last game was the 2013 Little Caesars Bowl, defeating Bowling Green 30-27)…A win over UA would put the Panthers at 4-1, their best start since 2009…Pitt started fall camp with 81 underclassmen one of the youngest rosters in their history…James Conner’s 699 rushing yards so far this season is the most by a runner after four games in school history, eclipsing the mark held by Heisman Trophy Winner Tony Dorsett in 1973 (564 yards)…2014 marks the 125th season on Pitt Football and is the Panthers’ third as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.