An early look at Akron: Three factors heading into Saturday’s Wagon Wheel

  1. The health of Akron quarterback Kato Nelson.

An apparent arm injury sidelined Nelson in the first half of Akron’s 37-29 loss to UMass on Sept. 28. Nelson could be seen with his arm in a sling without pads during the second half, according to George Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal. There have been no updates for his status Saturday.

Nelson accounted for 1,063 passing yards in four and a half games, prior to his injury.

  1. The passing game will need to take shots down the field against Akron’s limited defense.

The “FlashFast” struggled at Wisconsin. They ran only 45 plays in the 48-0 loss. They were held scoreless for the first time under coach Sean Lewis. 

Junior quarterback Dustin Crum finished 6-for-8 for 28 yards, with a seven yards being his longest completion. The offense averaged 3.8 yards per throw.

Akron allowed 8.4 yards per attempt through five weeks. However, Lewis did not say whether it is something he is focusing on heading into Saturday.

“It’s still early in the week, I’m not sure,” Lewis said.

  1. The offensive line will need to protect Crum better than last week.

The Flashes gave up nine sacks at Wisconsin, the most under Lewis. The previous high of seven occurred in back-to-back games last season at Penn State and Ole Miss. 

The Flashes are fourth worst in the country in sacks allowed (21).  Akron ranks third-worst in the country (23).

The Zips defense have struggled to pressure the quarterback. They have two sacks on the season, which is last in the country. 

Although the Zips have struggled to bring down the quarterback, Lewis is unsure if that will result in more time for his quarterback.

“Those teams that they’ve played have done a good job protecting their quarterback,” Lewis said. “Their edge rusher number 8 (Josh Ward) is a twitchy and athletic kid so we gotta not be complacent and not relax just because of what the stats are. They’re going to be playing with their hair on fire. We’ve got to do a great job doing our 1/11th and making sure that we keep our quarterback upright and clean.”

Each of the team’s the Zips played have allowed at least 10 sacks so far this season. The best team at protecting the quarterback is Central Michigan who is T-63 in sacks allowed. Akron’s only two sacks came against in their first game at Illinois in a 42-3 loss. They have been held without a sack, despite playing a UAB, an FCS school, Troy (T-63 in sacks allowed) and UMass (T-103 in sacks allowed).

 “I think you’ve got to throw the records out when it comes to rivalry,” Lewis said. “I know that’s kind of cliche speak, but you can go back through the history of this game and some of the crazy things that have happened. Look back to last year, it was an overtime game that comes down to one execution of a play.”

Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected].