UB Gameday: Five Things to Watch vs. Akron
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at InfoCision Stadium, Akron.
Radio 1520 AM. TV: CBS Sports Network.
1. Weather the early storm. Akron laid a colossal egg at UB last November, losing 55-24. Count on the senior-laden Zips roster to be keen to avenge that showing. UB can’t afford to get down early on the road against a good defense, like it did two weeks ago against Kent State. (It took every ounce of UB’s effort and talent to rally for that win).
2. UB’s pass protection. Why are UB’s offensive numbers down from last year? (Points down 5 a game, yards down 58 a game). Simple. The Bulls have played much tougher defenses. Last year they played two FCS teams, not one. Penn State’s D is a lot better than Baylor’s last year. Florida Atlantic’s D is a lot better than Army’s last year. The Bowling Green defense is much better than last year, and UB didn’t get to roll up 537 yards on Eastern Michigan this year.
This brings us to Akron. UB slapped 55 points and 536 yards on the Zips last year. The Zips, who had beaten Pitt, played like they had stopped at Duff's, Anchor Bar and Anderson’s for triple-header lunch. (I have a sportswriter friend, Fox Sports's Alex Marvez, who once heroically downed 50 wings at Anchor for lunch and another 50 wings at Duff's for dinner the Saturday before a Bills game. ) The Zips were lifeless. Not gonna happen this time. UB is going to have a rough time blocking Jatavis Brown (1), Cody Grice (36) and Jamel Marcus (34). We’ll see how the Bulls’ O-line shuffle goes. Guard Brandon Manosalvas is questionable (ankle). Let’s presume he sits out a third straight game (although he has practiced and he will dress for the game). Andy Fidler has started at left guard and Bob Blodgett at right tackle the past two games. But UB has shifted both games, giving plenty of time to Blodgett at left guard and sophomore Tyler O’Henly at right tackle. Blodgett and John Kling have formed a strong run-blocking tandem. O’Henly is mobile but green. He has allowed two sacks and two hurries the past two weeks (not awful but not great). In fairness, UB’s OL held up well last week. It did not yield a sack on 19 pass-play blitzes by Northern Illinois. Both NIU and Kent blitzed UB a ton.
But why should Akron DC Chuck Amato blitz? Joe Licata is torching blitzes to the tune of 65 percent completions and a QB rating of 95.4 (NFL version, with which you all are more familiar). Akron’s pass rush is good enough without the blitz. An O’Henly-vs.-Brown/Marcus matchup makes us fear for Licata's buttocks.
We’ll see what Andy Kotelnicki cooks up. Quick game and misdirection runs are the expectation.
3. More AT. Jordan Johnson has played great. But here’s a game where it would be good for Anthone Taylor to come up big. It’s his senior year, UB needs him in a big way against a tough defense, he’s an Ohio kid. It would be nice for him to put some clutch-performance icing on his career.
4. Keep Woodson in the pocket. Akron QB Thomas Woodson is completing 52.4 percent of his passes. He has rushed for 519 yards (not counting sacks and tackles for loss). Make him throw from the pocket. The UB DEs must be disciplined with upfield rushes. If Woodson turns into Charlie Frye (Akron’s all-time QB) for a day and beats you, God bless him.
5. Make field goals and PATs. Every point is important against a tough defensive team. The season for UB red-shirt freshman place-kicker Adam Mitcheson was going along mostly smoothly until last week. He was 10 of 14 on field-goal tries. But Mitcheson missed 2 of 3 vs. Northern Illinois (making from 26 and missing from 41 and 36). And he missed an extra point.
How concerned is Leipold?
“I thought he had a good week this week,” Leipold said of Mitcheson’s practice work.
However, Leipold said punter Tyler Grassman, who kicks off and can handle place-kicks, might be used on some field goals.
“We’re going to make some game-time decisions,” Leipold said. “Tyler may get some work. But we made a few adjustments, and the week went well for Adam.”
Mitcheson put a good strike on the ball on the 46-yard miss. He pulled it a tad. It missed by inches. Then he overcompensated on the 36-yard try, left his hips open, and sliced it wide right. The extra point was an ugly pull hook to the left. It never had a chance. But it wasn’t really Mitcheson’s fault. The snap was a riser that was a tad high. It looked like Grassman, the holder, might have to get out of his crouch, although he grabbed it and got the ball down. But the laces were facing Mitcheson, causing the pull-hook.
Every play has its own little story. We’ll see if Leipold feels compelled to switch to Grassman Saturday.