AKRON, OH – Fans at Saturday's Akron Zips versus Pittsburgh Panthers might have been tempted to sing a verse or so of the old Credence Clearwater Revival song “Who’ll Stop the Rain” as it rained steadily throughout the contest.
The weather, however, did not stop the visitors from the Atlantic Coast Conference as they dominated the Zips in every facet of the game en route to a 24-7 triumph before a crowd of 23,425. That was the second largest attendance mark in the six-plus year history of InfiCision Stadium.
(CLICK READ MORE TO CONTINUE . . . )
“It was a team win (this evening).” Narduzzi said. “Offensively, defensively, and special teams. This is how you win football games."
Akron (0-2) is winless after two games for the fourth time in the last six seasons and the first time since head coach Terry Bowden’s first campaign in 2012.
Bowden was philosophical after the game, saying, “There is a big picture out there and we are not going to lose sight of it. We still can do what we want to do, and we can still get where we are going.”
After the two teams failed to move the ball on their opening possessions of the game, Pitt took possession on its own 34 and moved the ball to the Zips seven, using the running of redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison and the passing of junior QB Chad Voytik. When the UA defense stiffened, junior PK Chris Blewitt connected on a 25-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Sophomore quarterback Tra’Von Chapman got his first collegiate start for the Zips, who struggled early. They went three and out twice and were finally starting to move the ball on the third possession before that drive ended with a fumble.
Surprisingly, despite the weather, the fumble by senior WR Imani Davis on a completed pass by Chapman was the only turnover of the contest.
The Panthers could not covert the fumble into points, and the Zips took over on their own 38 yard line. This time with senior QB Kyle Pohl at quarterback.
That possession resulted in UA’s first touchdown (and first lead of the 2015 season after being held to just three points last week at Oklahoma). Pohl’s passes were crisp and on target as the Zips reached the Pittsburgh 32. From there, senior RB Conor Hundley burst through a hole up the middle, broke a tackle, and went into the end zone for the score.
The drive took just five plays to cover 62 yards. That was more than half of the 110 yards UA would amass in total offense over the entire evening. Hundley, for his part, finished the contest with 59 yards on 11 carries.
With 2:35 remaining before halftime, Pitt took possession following a Zips punt at their own 27 yard line. From there, they went 73 yards in eight plays for a touchdown to take the lead.
Backup QB Nate Peterman engineered the drive as the junior had four pass completions to four difference receivers. The last was an 18-yard strike over the middle to senior TE J.P. Holtzfor a 10-7 lead at intermission.
Peterman split time with Voytik throughout the game, completing 12-of-17 passes for 148 yards and the touchdown to Holtz.
The Panthers dominted second half play as the Zips offense managed just 24 total yards and was held to just 2-of-12 passing. Chapman was behind center for four of UA’s five second half possessions.
Pitt salted the game away with a touchdown in both the third and fourth quarters. The third period tally came from Ollison whose run around the left side capped a five play-51 yard drive.
Ollison gained his first collegiate start when All-American RB James Conner was lost to a knee injury last Saturday in the win over YSU. He finished the game with 81 yards on 21 carries, along with the touchdown, before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
His replacement was freshman Darrin Hall, who gained 52 yards on 12 carries, as well as a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
It may not have shown on the scoreboard, but the UA defense played much better than a week earlier. The Oklahoma Sooners totaled 539 yards of offense in the opener.
An Akron bright spot on the dreary evening was the defensive unit, as it held Pitt to 307 total yards, collected five sacks, and came up with big stops. That was especially true in the running game. Senior LB Jatavius Brown led the way with 16 total tackles (eight solo), along with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Senior LB Dylan Evans and Darryl Monroe each had double digit tackles (11 and 10 respecitvely).
The Zips will look for their first win of the season next Saturday when Savannah State comes to town.