First Place on the Line in Rubber Bowl Finale Print E-mail
Written by Evan Meyer   
Wednesday, November 12 2008
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The Zips Bid Farewell to the Rubber Bowl Thursday night / Photo: Jeff Harwell
The Akron Zips play their final football game at the Rubber Bowl Thursday night in a game that is sure to be filled with plenty of nostalgia as the school says farewell to the facility they have called home since 1940.

But before they turn the lights out on the stadium, located next to Derby Downs the home of the All-American Soap Box Derby, and the Air dock where the famous Goodyear Blimp is housed, there is a game to be played. A game of major importance in the 2008 season.
Akron (5-4,3-2 MAC) faces the Buffalo Bulls (5-4,3-2 MAC) with both teams tied atop the Eastern Division standings and Bowling Green (5-5,3-3) just one-half game back as play begins this week.
The winner will have the lead in the division with two games remaining and most likely be in the driver's seat to represent the division in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit on December 5th.
When asked about the significance of the game, Zips head coach J.D. Brookhart said, This is why you play football. This is what its all about. Our players are well aware of this and have prepared well. Hopefully you will see a very well fought football game. We will have to play well to beat this very good Buffalo football team
The Zips are coming off a 47-30 win over the Toledo Rockets. It was the Zips' first home win this season breaking a losing skid of eight games on their home turf dating back to 2007.
One of the keys to the win was the effectiveness of the running game and specifically senior Dennis Kennedy.
The native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown last Wednesday in the win over Toledo and over the past three games has brought his game to a new level, rushing for 612 yards, an average of 7.3 yards per rush and six touchdowns.
For the season, Kennedy is fourth in the MAC with 903 yards and is one of four players in the conference to average over 100 yards per game (100.3). Kennedy needs only 97 yards to reach the 1000 yard plateau for the first time in his career.
Coming into this season, Kennedy had rushed for 1,201 yards in 34 games.
Much of the credit for Kennedys recent success belongs to the Zips offensive line,
consisting of senior left tackle Chris Kemme, sophomore left guard Mike Ward, junior center Elliott Bates, junior right guard Zach Anderson, and sophomore right tackle Chris Woods.
Their play helped the Zips gain 232 yards on the ground against Toledo and for their combine effort the entire line was named MAC Eastern Division Offensive players of the Week.
The group has come together very well," noted Brookhart of his award-winning offensive line. "We had four returning starters and our center, Elliott Bates, has done a great job stepping in and directing the calls
Another offensive player that will be a key again will be quarterback Chris Jacquemain.
The junior from Mentor, Ohio tied a career best with three touchdown passes against the Rockets by connecting on 16-of-23 passes for 226 yards. His 69.6% completion rate last Wednesday was his second best of the season.
Over the course of the season, Jacquemain is sixth in passing in the MAC, averaging 228 yards per game with 17 touchdowns. But has also thrown 11 interceptions, tied for most in the MAC with Ohios Boo Jackson.
Thursday's game also represents the last home game for 14 seniors including wide receivers Alphonso Owen who added his thoughts on the final game to eb held at the Rubber Bowl.
I think every time we get to play at the Rubber Bowl particularly at night, it is emotional because we do not get many home games," noted Owen. "It is going to get emotional especially at the start of the first and the fourth quarters."
 The message to the team is this is a big opportunity to have one of those special moments," added Brookhart. "Everything Thursday night is going to take care of itself. I just hope the up-front preparation has been paid attention to.
Meanwhile the Bulls come into this game riding a three-game winning streak after starting the 2008 campaign at 2-4 which included tough conference losses to Central Michigan (27-25) and Western Michigan (34-28 OT)
While most of the country was watching the election returns on November 4th, the Bulls routed the Miami Redhawks 37-17 at UB Stadium. Buffalo racked up 476 yards of total offense in picking up their first ever win over Miami.
Bulls' head coach Turner Gill, in just a short time, has turned the program around in.
From 2-10 his first season 2006, to 5-7 last season, to 5-4 going into Thursday nights tussle with the Zips. Gill and the Bulls have a opportunity for a winning season for the first time since 1996, three years before joining the MAC.
Buffalo QB Drew Willy
Buffalo's offense is fourth in scoring averaging 28.7 points per game and is led by senior quarterback Drew Willy.
The native of Randolph, New Jersey is third in MAC passing, completing 62.6 percent of his passes (179-for-286) for 2096 yards with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In the Bulls' win over Miami on election night, Willy passed for 245 yards and two scores
Like Kennedy for Akron, Buffalo has a solid running back in senior James Starks.
The native of Niagara Falls, New York leads the MAC in rushing, averaging 125.3 yards per game in just seven contests with eight touchdowns. Over his last two games, Starks has rushed for 362 yards and four touchdowns.
The Buffalo defense is fourth in the MAC against the run allowing the opposition just 126.6 yards per game and is led by sophomore linebacker Justin Winters.
The native of Greenbelt, Maryland leads the Bulls in tackles with 80 (36 solo) good for sixth in the MAC.and leads the conference in forced fumbles with four.
Thursday night will be the Zips 324th and final game at the Rubber Bowl. The game will draw its largest crowd of the season with a special ceremony and fireworks afterwards.
There are great memories there," stated Brookhart." Short term for me and some long term with many former players and coaches. It would be great to close the bowl out the right way with a win
Victory for either team will give them a major leg up in the trip to the MAC Championship game.
NOTES:This will be the 10th lifetime meeting between the schools with Akron holding an 8-1 edge (3-0 at the Rubber Bowl)The game will be televised on ESPNU (Charlie Neal-Jay Walker-Jessica Mendoza)UB won the last meeting 26-10 in 2007 at AmherstAkron has forced 14 fumbles which leads the MAC and have created 21 turnovers (14 fumbles and seven interceptions) which leads the MAC and is 26th in the Football Bowl Subdivision.. Bryan Williams-AKR is seventh in the FBS in kick returns (30.56 yds/return). Over his two year career with the Zips he has averaged 31.3 yds per return, second amongst active players in the FBS..Deryn Bowser is eighth in MAC receiving with 66.7 yds per game (49-600 3TD)Andre Jones-AKR, who missed the Toledo game due to violation of team rules is seventh at 67.9 yds per game (34-543 7TD)In their head-to-head matchup Brookhart is 3-1 lifetime against GillThis is Buffalos third consecutive night gameIgor Iveljic is third in MAC scoring with 70 points (28-30 PAT 14-19 FG)Miguel Graham-AKR leads the MAC in passes defended with 10Naaman Roosevelt-UB is fourth in receptions at 6.56 per game (59-843 7TD) and second in receiving yards, averaging 93.7..Drew Willy-UB was named a semi-finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
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