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Akron tops Utah State, wins first bowl game in program history

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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.

Former Michigan OL coach lands in Akron

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The Akron Zips finished 106th in rushing offense during the 2014 season. The program should receive a boost in its ground attack due to the team’s latest addition.

The team announced the hire of former Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk Thursday. Funk will serve as the Zips’ offensive line coach and offensive run game coordinator.

“I am extremely excited to have Darrell join our staff here at the University of Akron,” Akron head coach Terry Bowden said in a statement. “He is one of the top offensive line coaches in the country and will add a wealth of experience to our staff. Just as importantly, Darrell is a man of high character, and he will fit in nicely with the family atmosphere that we believe in here at Akron.”

Funk added, “I’m excited for the opportunity to join Coach Bowden and the staff at Akron. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

The offensive line coach served on Brady Hoke‘s staffs at Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan. During his time with the Wolverines, Funk coached a Rimington Trophy winner (David Molk), a two-time All-American (Taylor Lewan) and a First Team All-Big Ten performer (Patrick Omameh).

Akron offensive coordinator A.J. Milwee will now receive help from Funk in creating the team’s offensive game plan each week.

(Picture courtesy of Michigan athletic department)