AKRON, OHIO – The Akron Zips evened their record at 3-3 while improving to 2-0 in Mid-American Conference play as they defeated the Ball State Cardinals 35-3 Saturday afternoon on Homecoming Day at InfoCision Stadium.
The win was UA’s second straight over BSU and first at home since 2008 at the Rubber Bowl and made them 2-0 in conference play for the second consecutive season.
I’m just so proud of these guys to play as hard as they played.” Zips head coach Terry Bowden said. “Offensively, we put points on the board early. I know we missed a couple opportunities to get some big plays, but we came right back and hit Kwadarrius (Smith) for a big touchdown that kind of iced the way. Then the defense put another one on the board for us at the end. It was an awful-good team win. In the kicking game, our punt team and our field position from our kicking game, were mostly really good. Overall, I am pleased.”
Ball State (2-4, 0-2 MAC) ended a three-game losing streak where they were winless against Western Kentucky, Western Michigan, and the Zips. The Cards failed to score a touchdown for the second straight game and have been outscored 90-6 in their losses to UA and WMU.
“There were not a lot of positives here today.” Cardinals head man Mike Neu said “Nothing is going to magically fix our problems if we have some guy return from injury, it’s about each of the guys on the offensive side and the defensive side. We got to do our job and that’s the big challenge from us so that we can make sure each guy is doing their job on each play.”
UA scored first taking the opening possession down the field 65 yards in eight plays when senior Quarterback Thomas Woodson connected with fellow senior WR Austin Wolf who started the play as the slot receiver just ran down the field and was hit in stride from 24 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
Woodson completed 17-of-30 passes for 211 yards and a pair of scores.
BSU’s only points of the game at the end of the first quarter on a drive from their own 36-yard line to the Zips 15 before the defense stiffened. Junior PK Morgan Hagee came on and connected on a 31-yard field goal.to make it 14-3
The game completely turned in UA’s favor early in the second quarter.
Senior quarterback Jack Milas led the Cardinals on a drive taking them from their own 25 to the Zips one. After three attempts to reach the end zone failed, BSU faced a fourth down just inches from the goal line. Milas gave the ball to freshman RB Caleb Huntley who was stopped cold by junior LB Brian Bell just short of the line.
When asked about that defensive stand, Bowden said “If you don’t make that goal line stop, it may change their personality. It might change their feeling about what they’re doing in that ballgame. Momentum is an elusive thing, and we had it. That was as big of a stop as we had.”
From there, the Cardinals would not get any closer
The home team extended their lead to 17-3 by halftime on a 32-yard run up the middle by sophomore RB Deltron Sands who led the Zips ground game with 52 yards on six carries, and a 48-yard field goal by junior PK Tom O’ Leary his longest of the season.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Zips added a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard strike by Woodson to junior WR Kwadarrius Smith who caught the ball in stride and down the left sideline for the score. The UA defense finished the scoring when LB John Lako intercepted a Milas pass and too it back 35 yards for a touchdown.
LB Ulysses Gilbert led the Akron Blue and Gold defense with 13 total tackles (eight solo) with a sack and a pass breakup.
For the visitors from Muncie, Milas finished the game completing 21-of-41 passes for 176 yards and three interceptions. Huntley led all rushers in the game with 25 carries for 129 yards. However, he had just 38 yards in the second half.
Fellow freshman WR Justin Hall had seven catches for only 48 yards to lad the Ball State receivers. Coming into the game, Hall was leading all-freshman receivers in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 36 catches for 431 yards. In this game, Hall did not break for the big play as his longest reception was for just 15 yards
Neu commented on his freshman running back saying “I am proud of Caleb (Huntley) and the way he ran the ball today. He made the most of his carries, and he has done a good job ball security wise.
On the defensive side of the ball for the Cards, Senior DE Anthony Winbush came into the game with seven and a half sacks and 10 ½ tackles for losses among the top two in both categories in the FBS. On this day, he was held to just two tackles (both of them assists) no sacks and no TFL’s.
Statistically, the game was close with UA narrowly winning the battle in total yards 383-376. However the scoreboard told a different story.
Next Saturday, Akron travels to Western Michigan to face the Broncos who defeated Buffalo 71-68 in seven overtime while Ball State returns home to face Central Michigan who defeated Ohio in Athens 26-23.