AKRON — University of Toledo senior safety DeJuan Rogers remembers the last time he and the Rockets traveled to Akron. In the last matchup between the teams in 2013, Rogers’ freshman season, the Zips edged Toledo 31-29.
As the teams are set to face off today at Infocision Stadium, both teams are coming off a loss and are desperate for a conference win.
“It’s definitely going to be a good game,” Rogers said. “Last time we went down to Akron we didn’t win and I know they are still talking about that. We definitely have to go down there and really focus in and be ready to ball. Last time we went it was a good crowd. I’m definitely expecting a good crowd to be down there. We really have to be locked in a take it just one step at a time.”
Akron (5-4, 3-2) is coming off of a 41-20 loss at Buffalo, while Toledo (6-2, 3-1) fell 31-26 to Ohio on Thursday. The Rockets are one game behind Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference West Division, while the Zips trail Ohio by one game in the MAC East.
Akron comes into today’s game with the third-ranked scoring offense in the MAC at 31.2 points per game. Quarterback Thomas Woodson has been battling a shoulder injury, but is second in the conference in passing yards per game (293.8).
“They like to run a lot of vertical routes,” UT junior linebacker Ja’Wuan Woodley said. “They like to spread you out and run it up inside. They like to get that one-on-one with the linebacker. There are a few things that they like to do that we have to shut down. We have to be careful and trust one another to do their jobs so we can get it done.”
Led by junior quarterback Logan Woodside, Toledo features the MAC’s second-best scoring offense (39.4 points per game) and is the top team in total offense (544.4 yards per game). Woodside leads the nation in touchdown passes with 31 and leads the MAC in yards per game (339.4) and pass efficiency (194.7).
UT junior receiver Cody Thompson is the top receiver in the MAC at 114.6 yards per game and senior running back Kareem Hunt is third in the conference with 98.8 rushing yards per game.
“They are very explosive on offense,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “They’ve got one of the most efficient, effective quarterbacks with a good receiving corps. Their running backs are as good as anybody in the conference. They score points and I think I would be remiss if I didn’t say you have to score with them some.
“Their defense isn’t a slouch either. They are very good on defense. Generally the teams that have given them a little problems whether it be BYU or Ohio or Bowling Green, you don’t really stop their offense. You might slow it down just a little bit, but you’ve got to be able to score points.”
Akron’s defense ranks near the bottom of the conference in scoring defense and total yards allowed per game. Despite the numbers, UT expects to be tested by a hungry defense.
“They are definitely a very good defense,” Woodside said. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us. They play a lot of man coverage so they are definitely going to challenge us. It’s going to big for us to get off to a good start against a very good football team.”
Winning on the road in the MAC is never easy and UT coach Jason Candle said he expects to dig in against a well-coached Akron team.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for coach Bowden,” Candle said. “He’s done a lot of remarkable things in his career. We go to play another road contest in our conference. We expect a very competitive football game and certainly being on the road presents its own challenges. You have to handle the schedule. You have to travel on a short week, all of those things. Those are certainly not to be used as excuses. We’ll be ready to go.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.
Toledo at Akron
■ Time: 7:30 p.m
■ Records: Toledo is 6-2, 3-1 MAC; Akron is 5-4, 3-2 MAC
■ TV: ESPN 2
■ Radio: 1370 AM
■ Series: Tied 9-9
■ Favorite: Toledo by 9
■ Notes: Toledo is bowl-eligible for the seventh-straight season. ... Toledo’s loss to Ohio on Oct. 27 was its first at home vs. a MAC East team since a 27-13 loss against Miami on Oct. 26, 2002, snapping a streak of 19 straight. ... UT quarterback Logan Woodside leads the nation with 31 touchdown passes. His three TD passes against Ohio helped him break the UT single-season mark of 29 set by Bruce Gradkowski in 2003 and 2005. ... Toledo and Akron have met just four times in the last 17 seasons. ... Toledo leads the series 7-3 since Akron joined the MAC in 1992. ... UT wide receiver Cody Thompson and tight end Michael Roberts have nine TD receptions each, which is tied for seventh in the country. ... Jon’Vea Johnson is close behind with eight TD receptions. ... Akron has won at least five games in four consecutive seasons. ... Akron coach Terry Bowden leads all active MAC football coaches with 167 career wins and ranks sixth among active Division I coaches. He previously coached at Salem, Samford, Auburn, and North Alabama. ... Akron junior quarterback Thomas Woodson has thrown for 1,763 yards this season with 16 TDs. ... Akron senior wide receiver JoJo Natson leads the Zips with 692 receiving yards and nine TD receptions. Natson also leads the nation with two punt return TDs and ranks third in punt return average (18.2 yards per return). ... Akron sophomore linebacker Ulysees Gilbert ranks fifth nationally in tackles per game at 11.1.