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UMass, Akron battle Saturday for first MAC victory

AMHERST — Charley Molnar knew this year would be a challenging one as he took a University of Massachusetts football team that was below .500 in the Championship Subdivision last year to the Bowl Subdivision.

That meant measuring some of the team’s 2012 success by improvements.

But those moral victories aren’t enough for him.

“I feel this urgency to win football games this year. I don’t want to go into the offseason saying we got a lot out of this season from a developmental standpoint, but we didn’t get any wins. The name of the game is winning,” he said. “I want to be able to go to our fan base and say, ‘Come to games.’ And to our donors say, ‘Continue to support our program and give more.’ I want to be able to go to recruits and say, ‘Look what we’re building.’ I want to be able to say to our players, ‘Continue your hard work that you’ve already done. Continue that because we’re going to exponentially grow our wins.’”

“We’ve got to win football games so I feel tremendous pressure,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s the best team in the Mid-American Conference, every week there’s tremendous pressure to win I think.”

Saturday’s game at Akron might be his best chance. The Zips are 1-9 with their only win coming over Morgan State, a bad FCS team.

UMass junior tight end Rob Blanchflowersaid both teams need a win badly.

“We’re both winless in the MAC. We have targets on each other’s backs. Neither one of us wants to be the worst team in the MAC. We’re hoping to get our first ‘W’,” he said. “It would mean the world to all of us to be honest. We need this win real bad. I’ve got faith in the guys and faith in the coaches. We’re going to be confident going into the game.”

Time & location: 2 p.m., InfoCision Stadium, Akron, Ohio

Records: Akron (1-9, 0-6 MAC); UMass (0-9, 0-5)

Last week: Akron lost to Kent State 35-24; UMass lost to Northern Illinois 63-0

All-time series: First meeting

TV/Internet: MAC-Sports.com

Radio: WWEI-FM (105.5)

When UMass has the ball: After playing game after game against some of the league’s best defenses, UMass finally faces somebody struggling to stop their opponents. The Zips allow 37.1 points per game, which ranks them 11th in the MAC.

Akron has been fairly effective in slowing opposing passers, but it’s allowed 234.0 yards per game on the ground. That, combined with a UMass offensive line that’s been getting healthy, could lead to opportunities for senior tailback Michael Cox.

Senior linebacker Kurt Mangum leads the Zips with 91 tackles. Senior J.D. Griggs leads Akron with 51∕2 sacks.

Akron’s three interceptions are the fewest of any team in the conference.

This game could feature plenty of flags as both teams are averaging over 60 yards per game in penalties.

When Akron has the ball: The Zips’ offense is built around their passing game as senior quarterback Dalton Williams leads the MAC with 300.3 yards per game. He’s completed 290-of-467 passes for 3,003 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. All of those numbers lead the conference.

Williams’ favorite receiver is senior Marquelo Suel, who has 63 catches for 685 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Jerrod Dillard has been a reliable target in the end zone with 23 catches for 361 yards and eight touchdowns.

Sophomore Jawon Chisholm has carried the brunt of the rushing load with 803 yards (three touchdowns) on 140 carries.

Akron, which rarely forces turnovers, has lost eight fumbles and thrown 13 interceptions to tie for a league-worst margin of minus-12.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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