For the first time in Akron’s 30-year history at college football’s top level, it won a bowl game.
The 8-5 Zips shut down Utah State’s offense and capitalized on a few mistakes en route to a 23-21 win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Tuesday afternoon in Boise. It was only the second bowl game in Akron history, with the first was the 2005 Motor City Bowl, a 38-31 loss to Memphis.
The win over Utah State was the culmination of an impressive turnaround engineered by fourth-year coach Terry Bowden. Akron had back-to-back-to-back 1-11 seasons from 2010-2012, a stretch which includes Bowden’s first year at the helm. After going 5-7 in both 2013 and 2014, Bowden steered Akron to seven regular-season wins, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win gave the Zips a program-best eight victories.
It’s remarkable Bowden is the one leading this turnaround, too. The former Auburn coach — he was there from 1993-1998 and led the Tigers to five top-25 finishes in six seasons, including a No. 4 final ranking in 1993. But he hadn’t worked as an FBS head coach in 14 years when Akron hired him before the 2012 season, and his last bowl win came 18 years ago.
Utah State took a one-point lead early in the third quarter when quarterback Kent Myers found receiver Hunter Sharp for a 19-yard touchdown. After forcing a three-and-out on Akron’s next possession, Utah State had a chance to pull away a bit, but receiver Andrew Rodriguez lost a fumble at the Aggies’ 40-yard line. Akron promptly marched into the end zone in eight plays, and in the fourth quarter added a field goal that proved to be necessary late in the game.
With Chuckie Keeton back at quarterback — Kent Myers also played — Utah State drove into the end zone with 72 seconds remaining, cutting Akron’s lead to two. The Zips recovered an onside kick, though, and successfully stuffed a few last-ditch Aggie laterals to seal their victory.
Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson completed 14 of 29 passes for 168 yards, rushed 16 times for 47 yards and caught a touchdown from receiver Tyrell Goodman on a slick gadget play in the first quarter.
The bowl game was the final one on the Utah State sidelines for offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who was hired as Mizzou’s offensive coordinator earlier this month.