Akron Hopes To Corral Herd Again

It looked to be a match-up of two of the Mid-American Conference's best quarterbacks: Charlie Frye verses Stan Hill, Akron verses Marshall. Unfortunately, Hill has re-injured his left knee and may be out indefinitely. Frye took a shot in the side against UConn last week and has a terribly painful hip pointer that may keep him out. It looks like the "Battle of the Backup Quarterbacks," but Herd fans are definitely in the drivers seat with Graham Gochneaur, as opposed to the Zips.

If Akron has to use a backup, they will have to choose from: A) a fifth-year senior with only 19 attempts this year and one other start, at wide receiver against Ohio State in 2001, Micah Faler (6-1, 177) (and is 16-of-32 in two seasons with two touchdowns and two interceptions); B) A senior with only one attempt in 2003, Jonathan Gill (6-2, 217); )a senior who transferred from WVU as a quarterback, but has spent the last two seasons at receiver, Nick Sparks (6-3, 215); D) or burn the red-hirt of promising freshman Jabari Arthur. Head Coach Lee Owens has listed Frye as "very doubtful" and Faler looks to get the call for one of the MAC's best offensive teams. Akron is second in scoring (37.3 ppg), third in passing (310 ypg) and total offense (474 ypg).

One thing the Zips can count on is senior Bobby Hendry (5-10, 206), who last year became only the second Akron player ever to top 1,000 yards in a season (1,021). Never mentioned in the same breath with players like Northern's Michael Turner and Earl Charles of Marshall, Hendry is quietly carried 164 times for 751 yards (4.6 ypc), fifth in the league, and is tied for the MAC lead in rushing touchdowns with 10. Behind Hendry is a ringer-sophomore Jarell Ringer (5-10, 210), who has 37 carries for 278 yards, a MAC best 7.5 yards per carry for a back with at least 35 carries, and two scores.Fullback Dan Basch (Jr., 6-0, 245) has 78 carries for 175 yards (4.4) and has only lost three yards all season on his carries and Ringer has not lost a yard on 37 tries. Combined, the running backs for Akron have lost only 44 yards on 241 carries while gaining 1,204 yards (Charles, Butchie Wallace and Tank Tunstalle have lost 63 yards on 179 carries for Marshall).

No matter who the QB is, he will have some very good receivers to throw to. Senior Matt Cherry (6-1, 202) leads the Zips with 53 catches for 737 yards and three touchdowns. Altogether, seven Akron receivers have double-didget catches for 2,531 yards and 15 scores. Sparks is not listed as a starter, but is second on the team with 44 catches for 519 yards and two trips to the endzone. Senior Miquel Irvin (6-1,190) is the guy in front of Sparks on the depth chart, but just trails in catches (41) and yards (446) with three touchdowns. Senior tight end Mike Brake (6-4, 256) is fourth on the team with 19 catches for 311 yards, a team-leading 16.4 yards per catch and a handful for the MU linebackers. Sophomore Jason Montgomery (5-11, 167) is the leader in scores with four.

The offensive line averages 6-3, 305. Akron returned all five starters on the line and, in fact, returned every starter on offense from 2002. Junior left guard Aaron Conley (6-3, 300) has started 32 consecutive games. Fellow junior center, Jim Borrieci, has 21 consecutive starts over two years. Senior Mike Piccirillo (6-3, 320) at right guard and right tackle Jud Cummings (6-4, 315) have also started along side of Borrieci for 21 straight games. Returning senior left tackle Bryan Shaw (6-3, 321) was lost to injury in game one, after missing the last two games of 2002 with a concussion. He has been replaced for the last eight games by red-shirt freshman Tim Crouch (6-3, 290).

Akron enters this game at 5-4, 3-2 in the MAC and no real shot at the East Division title, having already lost to Miami and Kent State. The Zips would love to once again play spoiler and take the Herd out of the title hunt. However, Marshall leads the all-time series 7-3 since the first game in 1974. The Zips are 0-5 all-time in Huntington. Coming up tommorrow, Akron's best defense is their offense as the Zips attempt to outscore opponents instead of slowing them down.

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