AKRON, OH – Junior quarterback Kyle Pohl passed for 304 yards and a career-best four touchdowns as the Akron Zips scored on their first three possessions and never looked back in a 41-0 shutout of the Howard Bison Thursday night at InfoCision Stadium.
Akron (1-0) collected its fourth consecutive win dating back to last season when it finished the 2013 campaign with a 5-7 record.
“It was a good solid win.” Zips head coach Terry Bowden said after the game. “It was nice to play from in front and see how this team responds to (playing) from in front.”
On Howard's next possession, senior quarterback Greg McGhee completed a pass to junior running back William Parker. When senior linebacker Justin March hit Parker causing a fumble, fellow senior backer C.J. Mizell scooped up the ball and returned it to the Bison nine.
“Our defense played great tonight.” Bowden said. “They could have gotten at least four turnovers -- that’s how good they played.” Two plays later it was 14-0 as Davis connected with junior wideout Imani Davis over the middle.
One of the theme’s to the game was the Zips defense, which shut out an offense that averaged 404 yards per game a season ago. They also limited the Bisons to just 219yards. In addition, they held McGhee, the MEAC pre-season Player of the Year, who had over 3,000 yards in total offense a season ago, to just 97 markers for the entire evening.
After the defense forced another three-and-out, Davis fielded the punt and returned the ball 34 yards to the Bison 43. On the next play, Pohl found sophomore WR Mykel Traylorth-Bennett along the sideline. he shook off a tacklerwent into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns the night.
UA could have added to the lead on its next two possessions. On the first, they moved the ball from their own 27 to the Bison six. Bowden decided to go it on fourth down, but Pohl’s pass was incomplete.
The next Akron drive followed a short punt and a good return by Davis to the HU 40. Pohl moved the ball to the seven where the Zips faced another fourth down, Bowden brought on freshman PK Tom O’ Leary to try a 25-yard field goal, which he missed.
Late in the first half, Howard moved the football effectively for the first and final time in the game. Starting at Howard's own 20 after a UA punt, McGhee moved the offense with short passes and runs. Aided by a personal foul penalty, Howard reached the UA 11 with seven seconds remaining.
At that point, Bison coach Gary Harrell disdained the field goal and went for a touchdown. McGhee’s pass for freshman WR Tavius Brown was incomplete and the Zips enjoyed a 21-0 lead at intermission.
In the third quarter, UA took advantage of another short Bison punt to gain possession on their own 45. Pohl used eight plays to score a touchdown. This time it was on the ground as senior RB Jawon Chisholm busted up the middle and into the end zone.
If there were any things the Zips could have done better in the game, one was with the running game. Pohl led the rushers with 48 yards. However, most of those runs were when he was flushed out of the pocket and found open spaces. Chisholm had 21 yards on the evening and the TD run was his longest.
Howard moved the ball in spurts in the second half. The Bisons tried on two occasions to keep drives alive by going on fourth down and failed both times.
After the first gamble, the Zips made Howard pay with a touchdown as Pohl engineered a five-play, 51-yard drive culminated by his fourth scoring strike of the night and second to Traylor-Bennett on a go/fade route to the left corner of the end zone. It was 34-0 after O’Leary’ extra point attempt was blocked.
From that point on, Bowden put in his reserves. In the fourth quarter, they scored the final touchdown of the game when redshirt freshman QB Tommy Woodson connected with fellow redshirt frosh Austin Wolf from 42 yards out.
“Our recievers played very well.” Bowden said. “From Mykel to Austin Wolf, they all played well and they used their speed to get open.”
On the evening, UA collected 513 yards of total offense. It also registered its first shutout since September, 2009 when they blanked Morgan State, 41-0. It was the Zips first shutout in a season opener since a 1986 over Salem College, 35-0.
It gets a bit tougher for the Zips next week when they travel to Penn State to face the Nittany Lions.
OFFENSE: KYLE POHL-AKRON. The junior from Farmersville, Ohio passed for a career-best four touchdowns. His previous best was three TD's -- twice last season.
DEFENSE: C.J. MIZELL-AKRON. The senior linebacker, a transfer from Florida State, led the team with 10 tackles (eight solo), tying for his best as a Zip. He also recovered a fumble in the first quarter that led to UA’s second touchdown.
SPECIAL TEAMS: JOHN FLECK-HOWARD. The junior punter had nine kicks on the evening, averaging 40.6 yards per attempt.
The game was the second in the all-time series, with the Zips winning both (the other was in 2003 65-7 at the Rubber Bowl)…UA is 4-1 lifetime against the MEAC (3-0 at InfoCision Stadium)…The win was the Zips 10th lifetime at InfoCision Stadium (10-21 lifetime…Kyle Pohl-UA collected his third career 300 yard passing game…Mykel Traylor-Bennett had a career day with his two touchdowns and four catches for 89 yards. His previous best was three twice (vs. UCF and Northern Illinois).