University of Akron football: Zips break 21-game losing streak with 31-3 win over Bowling Green

George M. Thomas
Akron Beacon Journal
University of Akron linebacker Bubba Arslanian (27) celebrates with teammates after sacking Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald during the second half of Saturday's game at InfoCision Stadium. The Zips ended a 21-game losing streak with a 31-3 win over the Falcons. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

University of Akron football coach Tom Arth got consistent play for four quarters from his team, and that resulted in victory No. 1 after 17 attempts in his UA tenure.

The Zips received contributions from all three units on the way to a 31-3 win at InfoCision Stadium Saturday over Bowling Green to break their  21-game losing streak. The defense led the way, allowing the offense the comfort to work behind its running game.

University of Akron wide receiver Jeremiah Knight (5) is brought down after a short gain by Bowling Green linebacker Jerry Roberts (33) during the first half of Saturday's game at InfoCision Stadium. The Zips ended a 21-game losing streak with a 31-3 victory over the Falcons. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

“I know what we’ve had to endure and again, it’s not for everybody,” Arth said. “It is not for everybody. There aren’t very many people who can endure what we have to endure.  It’s not going to get any easier. It’s not over – the hard times, the challenges … but what our players know is what it takes to overcome those obstacles, to overcome those obstacles and overcome those challenges."

Running back Teon Dollard (26 carries, 185 yards, two touchdowns) pounded the nail in the coffin with 11:34 to play when the Zips beat a cornerback blitz, leaving no one to tackle him as he dashed past the line of scrimmage and raced 50 yards for his second touchdown of the game. He also scored on a 9-yard run with 10:45 left in the third quarter.

It proved to be a stark turnaround from the prior week when Miami University throttled Dollard.

“It feels good,” Dollard said of the first win of the season and the turnaround. “Game planning is the key. The whole week we were just game planning on how we were going to run the ball.

“Coming into this game, we knew what we were going to do, had our minds right, focused, good energy,” he said. “O-linemen knew what they were ready to do and they had good pushes and everything and I just had to do what I had to do to get to the second level.”

University of Akron wide receiver Gavin Blunt (30) celebrates with teammates after returning a blocked punt for a touchdown during the first half of the Zips' 31-3 win over Bowling Green on Saturday at InfoCision Stadium. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

This was not a game in which the Zips benefited from contributions by one unit. Despite giving up big plays on defense and special teams, those units — especially a defense keyed by linebacker Bubba Arslanian (16 tackles, sack, forced fumble) — answered with their own.

“Any time they get down in our red zone, we’re thinking field goal or take the ball away,” Arslanian said, “so that happened to be the case tonight and it worked out for us.

“Our defense did a really great job today. Our defensive line and [defensive backs] really played out of their butts.” 

As Bowling Green opened the second half with a drive, the UA defense came up with an interception by A.J. Watts at the Zips 17, leading to Dollard’s first touchdown. The Falcons marched down the field once again on their next possession, only to have Arslanian force a fumble — recovered by UA's Corey Thomas — at the Zips 4-yard line.

University of Akron wide receiver George Qualls Jr. (4) celebrates with teammate Tony Grimes Jr. (16) after scoring during the Zips' 31-3 win over Bowling Green on Saturday at InfoCision Stadium. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

Even special teams got in on the act. A muffed punt by the Falcons and recovered by wide receiver Gavin Blunt set up the Zips' first score, a 36-yard field goal by Cory Smigel.

Blunt added a more significant play at 3:46 of the second quarter when teammate Michiah Burton blocked a punt by Mason Lawler. Blunt scooped the ball up at the Falcons 7-yard line and took it into the end zone to give the Zips a 17-3 lead.

By any stretch, and Arth acknowledged it, the effort wasn’t perfect, but it's definitely a start.

University of Akron quarterback Zach Gibson (15) throws a pass during the Zips' 31-3 victory over Bowling Green on Saturday at InfoCision Stadium. The victory ended a 21-game losing streak for UA. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

Akron at Buffalo

Time: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Radio: WHLO (640-AM)