Dekalb, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Akron Zips hope to end an 18-game losing
streak to Mid-American Conference rivals as they attempt to upset the 23rd-
ranked Northern Illinois Huskies on the road.
Although Akron got off to a 1-3 start, there was a lot of excitement
surrounding the program following a hard-fought, 28-24, loss at nationally-
ranked Michigan, which it followed with a five-point setback to Louisiana.
Terry Bowden's team has taken a step back since entering conference play as it
has been defeated, 31-14, by Bowling Green in its league opener before being
routed, 40-3, by Ohio University last week. In addition to their losing streak
against MAC rivals, the Zips are also on a 27-game losing slide versus FBS
NIU is at the opposite end of the spectrum as it appears to be destined for
its third consecutive MAC Championship. The Huskies downed Kent State, 38-24,
last week on the road in a rematch of last season's title game to keep their
perfect record intact and break into the Top 25. This is the first
season at the helm of any program for coach Rod Carey, who kept his team
perfect despite playing four of its first five games on the road. NIU will now
return home looking to extend its FBS leading streaks of 22-straight home wins
and 18-consecutive conference victories.
This will be the 14th meeting in history between these schools. NIU holds an
8-5 all-time series lead, including a 4-2 record in DeKalb. The Huskies have
won three in a row over Akron, including their 37-7 win in 2012 at InfoCision
The Zips' early 3-2 lead did not hold up last week as Ohio held them scoreless
and posted 41 points in a heavy downfall. Akron was held to only 157 yards of
total offense in the game and turned the ball over twice. Sophomore
quarterback Kyle Pohl had trouble against the Bobcats' defense and finished
11-of-26 passing, for 101 yards with an interception. He was also sacked eight
times. Pohl has now been held under the 200-yard mark through the air twice in
a row after amassing over 300 yards passing in back-to-back games.
Akron also hurt itself last week with 12 penalties that resulted in 135 lost
yards. Jawon Chisholm finished with 60 yards on 15 rushing attempts. The
junior tailback came up 47 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark in 2012, but has
only 287 through six games this year. Zach D'Orazio and L.T. Smith have racked
up 266 and 255 receiving yards, respectively, while serving as Pohl's primary
targets. The Zips will need one of their skill position players to break out
soon to improve on their average of 18.8 points per game, which ranks 107th
Akron's defense allowed 362 yards of total offense at Ohio. Although the Zips
have the sixth best total defense in the MAC with an average of 436.2 yards
allowed per game, they are 10th in the 13-team league in points allowed per
game at 34.7. Defensive coordinator Chuck Amato has a pair of capable pass
rushers on his line in C.J. James and Nico Caponi. Junior linebacker Justin
March is also having a strong season and enters week seven with 32 tackles and
"Justin is the guy that we show other players how hard he practices, because
that's exactly how he plays in games," Amato said. "We just have to point him
out and say, 'do this'. He plays hard on every play, and he's been
unbelievable for us. He's not a real vocal person, but he leads by example."
The Zips have registered 16 sacks through their first six games. They will
have a tough time maintaining that pace against NIU's scrambling Jordan Lynch.
The reigning MAC Player of the Year amassed 244 passing yards and rushed for
94 more in the team's win over Kent State last week. The Huskies piled up 698
yards of offense in the victory. Lynch is leading the MAC's quarterbacks with
533 rushing yards and is second in the conference with 329.2 yards of total
offense per game. The senior frequently looks in the direction of the speedy
Tommylee Lewis, who has reeled in a team-high 34 catches for 288 yards. Da'Ron
Brown has racked up 373 yards and five touchdowns on 25 receptions, but no
other Huskie has more than seven grabs on the campaign.
Lynch played a supporting role for the first time in his career last week as
he was overshadowed by Cameron Stingily, who tallied 266 rushing yards and a
pair of touchdowns on 37 rushing attempts.
"This performance doesn't shock me, because the way he's been practicing and
the way he's been going about things," said Carey on Stingily. "This doesn't
validate in my mind that he's a good back. We were able to give him so many
carries because we needed to."
The junior halfback's outburst was the highest single-game rushing total by a
Huskie running back since 2006. Stingily is the third leading rusher in the
MAC with 115.2 ypg. Lynch is right behind him averaging a fourth-best 106
NIU has not been steady on the defensive side of the ball under Carey,
allowing 29.8 ppg through five contests. The Huskies had a decent showing last
week with only 392 yards of total offense allowed to the Golden Flashes.
Senior safety Jimmie Ward made his fourth interception of the season and
recovered a fumble. Ward looks to be on track for his third consecutive
selection to an All-MAC team with a team-high 46 tackles.
The Sports Network