The Eastern Michigan University football team gave up 31 unanswered points on the way to a 31-6 loss at the hands of the Akron University Zips, Saturday.
The game was the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.
“We put everything that we had into this game – being the first MAC conference game,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said. “We felt our team was ready to give everything that they had and I don’t know that we didn’t do that.”
Redshirt senior Rob Bolden started at quarterback for the second straight game for the Eagles (1-4, 0-1 MAC). He was 17-of-30 for 185 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Bolden also carried 15 times for 16 yards.
Kyle Pohl was 27-of-40 for 326 yards and two touchdowns for Akron (3-2, 1-0 MAC). He also rushed for a touchdown.
The Eastern run game was ineffectual for the second consecutive contest. Senior Bronson Hill led the charge with nine rushes for 34 yards. Senior Ryan Brumfield (25 yards) and junior Darius Jackson (20 yards) each had five carries.
“It [the run game] was better – we got it going a little bit,” Bolden said. “I think those three yards we just need to have, we’ve got to get them. There’s no excuse not to.”
Conor Hundley had eight carries for 61 yards and a touchdown for the Zips.
To go with Bolden’s two interceptions, the Eagles fumbled the ball twice, Saturday – Akron recovered both times.
“I sound like a broken record, but we were zero to four in turnover ratio, and that’s not going to win you football games,” Creighton said.
After forcing the Zips to punt, EMU marched down the field, capping a 11-play, 78 yard drive with a 18-yard touchdown pass from Bolden to senior receiver Tyler Allen. Redshirt junior receiver David Gibson – the holder – bobbled the snap on the point after attempt, making the score 6-0.
“We talked about it all week – how we weren’t starting fast,” Bolden said. “We had a lot of emphasis on that and we did that today.”
The Zips and Eagles punted on each of their following drives. After redshirt senior Owen Dubiel pinned the Zips inside the 10, Akron was able to score after a broken defensive play allowed Pohl to score on a 5-yard rush, ending a 10 play, 91 yard drive.
Robert Stein added a field goal for Akron, putting the Zips ahead 10-6.
Bolden couldn’t get the offense going to start the second half, forcing the Eagles to punt. On the ensuing drive, Akron scored a touchdown on a 28-yard run by Hundley, increasing the team’s lead to 17-6.
Akron added two more touchdowns – a 24-yard pass to LT Smith, and a 15-yard pass to Anthony Ritossa to put the game further out of reach.
For much of the game, it looked as though the EMU secondary was giving Akron’s receivers a lot of cushion – in turn allowing the Zips to move up the field easily.
“We played multiple coverage today, and you know their quarterback snapped it off pretty well, the receivers did a pretty good job coming back to the ball,” he said. “I thought we were there for a lot of plays – it was just a matter of inches.”
Sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback (undisclosed, several weeks) and redshirt sophomore left tackle Andrew Wylie (knee) did not play, Saturday.
Redshirt senior center Campbell Allison left in the third quarter with an apparent injury to his left leg. Junior receiver Dustin Creel left with an apparent knee injury, as well. Their status was not immediately known after the game.
Senior right tackle Lincoln Hansen returned to the lineup after missing the game against Michigan State University.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Anthony Zappone was injured in the third quarter and needed to be helped off the field. He returned later in the game, making several plays before leaving again in the fourth quarter and not returning to the contest.
“I think Zappone’s a great football player,” Creighton said. “I think he’s a leader in our program and going to become more than that. He’s played both outside linebacker and inside linebacker – we’ve thrown a lot at him. He’s got a great passion about him and I’m sure glad he’s on our team.”
The Eagles return home next Saturday to take on the University at Buffalo Bulls.
The game will be Eastern’s homecoming game.
Buffalo played the Bowling Green State University Falcons, Saturday – losing late, 36-35.
The Eagles last played the Bulls on Oct. 5, 2013. EMU lost, 42-14. Tyler Benz was 12-of-19 for 157 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Hill had 14 carries for 57 yards.
Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho