Preview: Pohl Leads Potent Akron Aerial Attack

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After a week off, the Ohio Bobcats return to action Saturday when they head up north to take on the Akron Zips. The ‘Cats, fresh off a three-game winning streak, have an opportunity to win their seventh straight game against a Zips team that has been among the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision in recent years. Since 2010, Akron has won a grand total of three games, with only one of those coming over a fellow FBS foe.

But Saturday Ohio is heading into the Zips’ home to face a team that is much improved. Despite their 1-4 start to the season, the Roos have played with a new sense of motivation. They’ve lost a pair of close games to Louisiana Lafayette and No. 11 Michigan, and led conference foe Bowling Green 14-0 before eventually losing 31-14 this past week.

"They've played very good opponents and it's shown,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said during his Tuesday press conference. “They've been in every single ball game including this last ball game against a very good Bowling Green team.”

A big reason for Akron’s newfound competiveness has been its defense. Through five games the Zips defense has 15 sacks and 38 tackles for loss, putting them in the top-20 nationally in both categories. They’ve also forced seven turnovers on the year which has helped keep them in games.

But Akron’s intense play hasn’t been limited to just defense. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl has played inspired in his first five games as the starter. He’s thrown for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns, third in the MAC in both categories, and has kept the team competitive.

“I think [Pohl] has shown, just from watching the tape, leadership ability, and he’s under control. He’s poised, and he’s got a really strong arm. So you put all those things together and you got you a good quarterback,” Ohio defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow said.

With Pohl under center, the Zips have an offensive leader on a unit full of weapons. Receivers Zach D’Orazio and L.T. Smith have proven to be dangerous targets for Pohl. They’ve combined for 511 yards, five touchdowns despite catching just 29 percent of Akron’s completed passes.

“They try to get the ball to their playmakers as much as they can with screens and quick passes and then they’ll throw the ball deep, so it’s a tough offense to defend,” Burrow said of the Zips’ aerial attack.

But Ohio’s had success against the pass this season. The secondary is holding opposing quarterbacks to just 280 yards per game and have picked off opponents four times. For as well as Pohl has played, he’s also thrown six interceptions on the season, showing off his youth and inexperience. If the ‘Cats can get to Pohl early, and keep Akron’s defense from getting to their own quarterback, Tyler Tettleton, they just may be able to hold off the rising Zips for one more game and capture their seventh straight victory over them.