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How Did We Defy the Odds?

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How on earth did the Zips make it to the MAC championship this year? They have some of the worst stats in BCS football, they have no real notable names except for an inexperienced Re-read and A MAC preseason DPOY, and they have sustained injuries to the few players who seemed to breathe some hope into a team that was picked to finish 4th in the MAC East.


If you have any familiarity with the Human Resources world, you might be familiar with Gallup's Strenthfinder model. The model relies on a study where 2 pools of people were taught speed reading. The first group was pretty poor at speed reading. The second group was decent at speed reading. Which group saw the biggest jump in speed reading proficiency? The group that was already decent at it. Gallup took these results and developed a model that helps people identify their strengths and encourages people to focus on developing their strengths, not their weaknesses.


It seems that Terry Bowden and Chuck Amato have, at least to some degree, employed the Strengthfinder model and it has worked for them. They seem content to let stats be damned in favor of, "scoring one more point than the opponent" with a bend but don't break defense. They have won off of the efficiency of a few big plays by gaining enough of a small lead and playing to preserve that lead. We converted on third down, when it mattered, and our defense played good enough to stop the opposition on third downs and hold them to a kick. We had good enough kick return coverage to prevent run backs for TDs, but gave up a lot of field position in the process. The kicking game, pretty sketch at times, was good enough when we needed it to be good. From all accounts, the only player who really seemed to excel each week was punter, Nick Gassed, who's directional kicking ability and ability to punt with few touchbacks helped a Zips defense that seemed like a sieve, at times. The staff took some very fast receivers who seemed to have trouble catching the ball and somehow got them to a spot where they have started to make catches. We had a poor run offense but were able to run the ball at the end of big games when we needed yards on the ground. We did not rush the passer much, but when we needed to, we did so with a vengeance. And although we did give up points, we robbed more QBs with a tough secondary who seem to be ignored, all year.


The Zips demonstrated a robust resilience in a whacky Sunday game against WMU and raw emotion with the MAC East on the line against Ohio where our defense got in the head of talented QB.


We have had ugly moments, too. We had a stiff OOC schedule and it had yet to be revealed how good PSU and Iowa State would be when they soundly beat us. Toledo destroyed us, twice, and an improving Miami of Ohio beat us, taking advantage of our R-FR QB who was starting on 2 days notice.


But, overall, the Zips did better than anyone thought they would. We won games we didn't expect to win and lost a game we didn't expect to lose. They clawed their way into the MAC title game, for the first time in 15 years in a year they were not supposed to and back to a bowl game, for the second time in three years, and only the third time, ever. 


The 2017 Zips are not your prototypical successful team and perhaps, that makes their season all the more glorious. We won and we defied the odds and now, suddenly, no one is discussing whether the coaching staff has a future in Akron as they defied the odds and are savoring the beaches and warm weather in South Florida and a chance for one more win.


Go Zips!



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