AKRON, Ohio- From one homecoming win to another.
The football team spoiled Akron’s homecoming game Saturday, rallying from a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win, 24-20, at the Rubber Bowl.
The Owls trailed their Mid-American Conference foe, 20-3, heading into the fourth quarter before the offensive fireworks began.
Red-shirt junior quarterback Adam DiMichele tossed three touchdowns, including the game-winning 19-yarder to sophomore Dy’Onne Crudup, to lead the way for the Owls.
“They’re slaying demons right now,” coach Al Golden said. “That’s the phrase I use with the team. First it’s winning a MAC game, then it’s winning a MAC road game, then it’s winning two in a row. We’re slaying demons one by one.”
The Owls won back-to-back games for the first time since 2002 to improve to 2-5 overall and 2-2 in the MAC. On Saturday, they’ll try to win three straight games for the first time since 1990, the last season in which the Owls finished with a winning record.
DiMichele said the character of this team has been depicted when facing adversity.
“We know our backs were up against the wall,” DiMichele said. “And there’s only one way to go and that’s forward and that’s what we do. That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
Akron netted the first points of the game on a 29-yard field goal by Igor Iveljic. Temple matched the Zips’ troika of points, with sophomore kicker Jake Brownell’s 20-yard field goal in the second quarter.
A 49-yard touchdown strike from Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain to dangerous wide receiver Jabari Arthur gave the Zips a 10-3 lead with 6:32 left in the second quarter.
Arthur, the MAC leader in receiving yards per game at 107 per contest, torched Western Michigan last week to the tune of 15 catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
Golden said a big part of this week’s game plan was to slow down Arthur.
“ of his 84 yards came on one play,” Golden said. “If you can eliminate him from the offense, that’s one-third of the offense. We let him have the one quick one, but to keep him under 100 yards was good for us.
“We mixed things up. And if you don’t do those things he’s going to catch 15 on you like he did last week. So, that’s the finest form of flattery for that young man.”
Another part of the Zips offense was running back Bryan Williams, who worked his way to 114 yards on 22 carries, marking the fifth time an opponent has topped the century mark against the Owls.
But Golden said he’d rather take his chances with the Zips’ ground game than let Arthur have his way.
“If [Arthur] can’t kill you, you have a chance,” Golden said. “We would’ve rather [had] them run the ball and win the game and in the end I think that game plan worked. We didn’t want them to have a lot of explosive plays.”
The defense did its part again, limiting Akron to 129 yards of total offense in the second half and forcing two turnovers – the first career interceptions by freshman Morris Blueford, in the third quarter, and sophomore cornerback Anthony Ferla to seal the deal as time expired.
DiMichele said the defense was the key to the Owls even having a chance to come back in the game.
“Our defense really kept us in the game,” he said. “I’m really proud of those guys.”
The comeback started with a two-yard touchdown from DiMichele to junior tight end Kevin Armstrong early in the fourth quarter to make the score 20-10. The touchdown ended a period of offensive futility for the Owls, marking their first offensive touchdown in nine quarters.
The second score in the comeback came in the form of a 19-yard aerial from DiMichele to Francis, who finished the day with seven receptions for a team-high 94 yards.
Then came the final drive.
DiMichele hit junior wide receiver Bruce Francis twice for 29 yards. He scrambled twice for gains of 14 and 10 yards, both for first downs. And he hit Crudup for a gain of six on the third play of the drive, before the 19-yard clincher with 27 ticks remaining on the clock.
Golden said the team has to continue taking care of business to have a shot at winning the MAC Eastern Division title.
“We’re 1-2. … Are we in the race? We’ll see,” he said. “But we’ve got to focus on Miami of Ohio next week.”
Terrance McNeil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.