Akron (3-7) at Massachusetts (1-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gillette Stadium (68,756) -- Foxborough, Massachusetts. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Akron 2-3, UMass 1-4. Away Record: Akron 1-4, UMass 0-4. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, UMass 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 2-4, UMass 1-4. Series Record: Massachusetts leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Terry Bowden and his Akron Zips will be seeking revenge when they visit Gillette Stadium for Mid-American Conference action against the Massachusetts Minutemen.
Saturday will mark the only the second meeting in history between Akron and UMass. The Minutemen downed the Zips, 22-14, last season in Akron for their only win in their inaugural season as a member of the FBS. Bowden's squad also earned just one victory in 2012, which was his first year at the helm of the program.
Bowden guided Auburn to a perfect 11-0 record in 1993 before leading the Tigers to three consecutive bowl games from 1995-97. The 57-year old head coach knew it would take some time before he would discover that type of success with the Zips, who won only two games in the two-year span before his arrival. Akron has made steps in the right direction this season as it improved to 3-7 overall in its last appearance on Nov. 2 with a 16-7 victory over the defending East Division champion Kent State Golden Flashes. The Zips also rose to 2-4 in the MAC standings with the win after failing to pick up multiple victories in league play over the past three seasons.
Second-year head coach Charley Molnar faced an even greater challenge than Bowden when he was hired to be the Minutemen's coach prior to the 2012 season. The transition from the FCS to the FBS has not been smooth for UMass. Molnar's career record dropped to 2-19 on Nov. 2 when his squad suffered a 63-19 loss to Jordan Lynch and the Northern Illinois Huskies. The Minutemen are one of four teams in the MAC with only one conference victory thanks to their 17-10 win over the still winless Miami-Ohio RedHawks.
Akron rallied around its offensive star Jawon Chisholm last time out. Just one week after compiling 166 rushing yards against Ball State to close out the October slate, the junior halfback rushed 27 times for 151 yards including a 26-yard scamper that helped the team escape a drive that started at its own 13-yard line. Chisholm has been steady for the Zips throughout the campaign en route to 760 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Although Chisholm accounted for nearly half of Akron's 304 total yards of offense versus KSU, the team's only touchdown came on a 33-yard pass from wideout Zach D'Orazio to L.T. Smith. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl tied his season-low with only 98 yards on 8-of-19 efficiency. Since closing out the non- conference streak with seven touchdown passes in a three-game span, Pohl has thrown for only three scores against four interceptions. He has also completed less than 50 percent of his throws in four of his last five games.
D'Orazio is leading the Zips' receivers on the season with 428 yards and four TD receptions. Although he made his mark with the passing score in the team's win over the Golden Flashes, he was held without a catch.
Akron's defense has shown progress under defensive coordinator and former NC State head coach Chuck Amato. It is in the middle of the pack in the MAC in scoring defense (30.1 ppg) and fifth in total defense (405.3 ypg) through 10 games. The Zips completely stifled KSU, which finished with only 300 total yards and committed five turnovers. Two of the takeaways came courtesy of Johnny Robinson, who recovered a fumble in the first half before picking off a pass midway through the fourth frame to hinder the opposition's hopes of a comeback. Jatavis Brown led the Zips with 16 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Just as most of the NIU's opponents in recent history, UMass had trouble on the defensive side of the ball versus the Huskies, who amassed 612 offensive yards, 27 first downs and nine offensive scores in the recent setback. The Minutemen had mixed results when they had possession. They found success on the ground as freshman tailback Lorenzo Woodley established new career-highs in rushing yards (163) and carries (38), while scoring his second TD of the season.
Redshirt sophomore Mike Wegzyn was not quite as productive in his first start under center since the second week of the season. Wegzyn threw for 169 yards with only 10 completions on 25 throws, two of which were picked off. Tajae Sharpe did most of the damage with five catches for 65 yards. Wegzyn returned to the starting lineup in place of A.J. Doyle, who is questionable to return on Saturday due to an injured ankle.
The Minutemen dropped to a 104th national ranking in total defense after being thrashed by the Huskies. In addition to their average allowance of 455.4 ypg, they are also surrendering 32.7 points per outing to barely crack the top 100 among the 123 FBS schools. Stanley Andre, who shifts from the defensive line to linebacker, has been the most consistent player for UMass with 88 total tackles, 4.5 TFL and a forced fumble.
With Woodley serving as the Minutemen's offensive centerpiece over the past two games, they have averaged 24.5 points. They had previously averaged just under seven points per outing in seven games. Although Akron could be in trouble if the rookie running back continues to progress, it stopped two much more proven halfbacks in Dri Archer and Trayion Durham to down KSU. Unless Doyle returns healthy or Wegzyn makes strides, the Zips will tie up the all- time series.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Akron 28, Massachusetts 24
11/14 15:01:44 ET