AKRON, OHIO Junior quarterback Chris Jacquemain tied a career high with three touchdowns and senior running back Dennis Kennedy rushed for over 100 yards for the third consecutive game as the Zips (5-4,3-2 MAC) routed the Toledo Rockets (2-7, 1-4 MAC) 47-30 Wednesday night at the Rubber Bowl before a crowd of 10,134 and a national television audience.
Akron RB Dennis Kennedy rushed for 153 yards and a TD / Photo: Jeff Harwell
The win was Akrons first at home this season breaking a six-game losing streak dating back to last season in the penultimate game at the stadium they have called home since 1940.
The victory also marked an end to the Zips' six game losing streak to the Rockets.
Most importantly however, the win kept the Zips in a tie with the Buffalo Bulls in the MAC East Division. The two teams will meet on Thursday November 13th in a game that will go a long way in determining who will be the East Division representative in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit.
It was a good win for us, said Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain afterward. We had to get this one to set up the game against Buffalo a first place showdown. We will enjoy this win tonight then get right into preparation for the Bulls.
Jacquemain, a junior from Mentor, Ohio finished the game completing 16-of-23 passes for 226 yards and three scores.
During the 17-day break leading up to Wednesday nights game, Zips head coach J.D. Brookhart categorized these final four games as a second season He was pleased with getting the victory in the first of these encounters, noting Our goal was to go 1-0. That was all we could focus on. We cannot control the next week. We had one purpose and we got to that.
The Zips took the opening kickoff and moved the ball 62 yards in just seven plays with quarterback Chris Jacquemain finding junior wide receiver Jeremy Bruce from 12-yards away for the opening score. It was Bruces first collegiate touchdown.
The Akron defense held Toledo on its opening possession, forcing a punt which led directly to the Zips second touchdown of the evening when the snap bounced back to punter Bill Claus whose kick was then blocked by defensive back Jalil Carter and recovered by freshman linebacker Aaron Williams for his first touchdown as a collegian increasing the Zips lead to 14-0.
The Zips extended their lead to 21-0 on their second possession of the game.
Taking possession on their own eight-yard line, Akron marched 92 yards in seven plays with Jacquemain tossed his second touchdown pass of the game, connecting with senior tight end Merce Poindexter on a 19-yard strike.
I thought we came out very sharp and we handled the break very well, noted Brookhart of the Zips fast start in the contest.
Down 21-0 , the Rockets finally got their offense into gear and started moving the football.
Toledo took possession after the kickoff at their own 36-yard line and moved to the Akron 11-yard line where the Zips defense stiffened forcing the Rockets to settle for junior place kicker Alex Steigerwalds 28-yard field goal to make the score 14-3.
On their next possession, Akron looked to really put a stranglehold on the game.
Early in the second quarter the Zips moved the ball from their own 40 yard line right down to the Toledo 17-yard line but then Jacquemain made his only passing mistake of the game when his third down pass was deflected and then intercepted by junior Roverback Lester Richmond in the end zone.
Following the turnover Rockets junior quarterback Aaron Opelt engineered an 11-play 80-yard drive, capped by a six-yard bootleg for a touchdown that put the Rockets back into the game at 21-10.
But Akron answered with a score on the final drive before halftime, adding a 23-yard Igor Iveljic field goal to increase the Zips advantage to 24-10.
Taking possession on their own 23 yard line, the Zips moved the ball on three Jacquemain passes and the running of Kennedy to the Toledo six yard line. After two chances to reach the end zone failed, sophomore place kicker Igor Iveljic made a 23-yard field goal giving Akron a 24-10 lead at intermission.
When the third quarter began, the game started to get interesting on this fairly warm and moonlight November night.
Toledo took the kickoff and got back into the game engineering a 73-yard eight play drive with Opelt firing a 22-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Kenny Stafford making the score 24-16. However Steigerwalds PAT was blocked by Almondo Sewell and was recovered by Shawn Lemon who raced 98-yards into the opposite end zone for two points, extending Akrons lead to 26-16.
It was the first time in school history that the Zips returned a blocked PAT for a safety.
After stopping the Zips on their next possession, the Rockets engineered an 81-yard eight play drive which ended with Opelts second touchdown pass of the game; an eight-yarder to junior wide receiver Stephen Williams who led all receivers in the game with ten catches for 136 yards, and two touchdowns.
With Toledo making the score 26-23 with 6:29 remaining in the third quarter, the Zips players, coaches, and many in the crowd had flashbacks to Akron losing leads at home this season to Cincinnati and Bowling Green. As well as losing that huge fourth quarter lead at Eastern Michigan.
But three points would be the closest Toledo would get for the remainder of the game.
Akron responded with a touchdown on its next possession to give the Zips some breathing space, extending their advantage to 33-23 when Jacquemain tossed his third touchdown of the game on a nine-yard toss to Dashan Miller.
Then the Zips defense stepped up, putting an end to any thoughts of a Rockets comeback.
Zips linebacker Doug Williams intercepted Rockets quarterback Aaron Opelts pass and returned it to the 28-yard line early in the fourth quarter, setting up the Zips final scoring drive which was capped by tailback Dennis Kennedys two yard touchdown run to give the Zips an insurmountable 40-23 lead.
Kennedy also capped the evenings scoring for the Zips with a 33-yard touchdown up the middle in the latter stages of the fourth quarter, to make it 47-23.
Kennedy, the senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida carried the ball 30 times for 153 yards. It was the third consecutive game he has rushed for over 100 yards.
This is a good victory especially coming off those days off. We wanted to come into this second season 1-0 and that is what we did, noted Kennedy afterward.
Dennis is running the ball great, added Jacquemain.. He is breaking tackles. But it is a total offensive team effort when he has his hands on the ball.
Over the last three games, Kennedy has rushed for 612 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
Toledo scored a touchdown on their next possession, with Opelt and Williams connecting for the second time in the game. This time from 16-yards away but the game, for all intent and purposes, was decided.
Brookhart put in backup quarterback Matt Rodgers for Jacquemain and the second team Akron offense ran out the clock and secured victory.
The two teams combined for 828 total yards and those 77 points all this while there was a power failure before kickoff knocking out power to the neighborhood around the Rubber Bowl. The stadium though had its own generator to power the lights et al. According to Ohio Edison, a transformer blew on a pole near the stadium. It was unknown how the transformer was put out of commission.
The Rockets incurred their third consecutive loss and sixth in the last seven games and their third consecutive losing season for the first time since 1975-78 when they had four straight losing campaigns.
Toledo was led offensively by Opelt who was 23-for-35 through the air for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Running back DaJuane Carter was held to just 61 yards on 14 carries.
NOTES: Andre Jones-AKR was suspended for the game by head coach J.D. Brookhart for violation of the teams class attendance policyChris Jacquemain-AKR has thrown at least one touchdown pass in ten consecutive games and 11 of his last 12Jacquemain also collected fourth straight multi-touchdown game and sixth of the seasonFormer Notre Dame and Zips head coach Gerry Faust visited the press box before the game. Faust who was the head coach in leading the Zips into the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1986 was 43-53-3 in his 99 games as Akron head coachDennis Kennedy-AKR passed the 2000 yard rushing mark for his career