STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A win in its first game and some success carried over from last year has Akron confident it can compete with Big Ten opponent Penn State on Saturday.
Quarterback Kyle Pohl has the Zips on a four-game winning streak dating to last season, including a 41-0 shutout of Howard in Akron's opener. He threw for nearly 2,500 yards last season and 308 against Howard.
"We can control our calmness and the way we go in there and focus," Akron coach Terry Bowden said about the prospect of playing in front of nearly 100,000 fans at Beaver Stadium as coach James Franklin makes his home debut for the Nittany Lions.
Akron (1-0) is winless in four games against Penn State.
Penn State (1-0) has won three of its last four behind sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who set a school record with 454 yards passing in last Saturday's 26-24 victory over Central Florida.
Bowden, starting his third season with the Zips, says he hopes his team can limit Hackenberg's success.
"You hope he doesn't make as many big plays. You hope you can get a little pressure at times," Bowden said. "You hope you can make him drive the length of the field by not turning the ball over.
"You hope for a lot of things you'd like to do to extend the football game and get this game into the fourth quarter or the second half or something, but I don't think you stop a young man like that," Bowden said.
Neither team displayed a steady running attack in their respective openers, something Penn State's Franklin wants to change.
"We need to do a better job of being able to impose our will in the running game and be able to dictate the game from that standpoint," he said.
Things to watch when Akron visits Penn State on Saturday:
NOT RUSHING INTO IT: Penn State ran for just 57 yards against Central Florida while Akron nearly doubled that total with 113 against Howard. Pohl scrambled for 48 of those yards. Each team had 28 attempts.
RED (ZONE) ALERT: Akron converted three of four trips inside the 20 against Howard while Penn State was 5 of 5 against UCF. However, three of Penn State's five red-zone scores were Sam Ficken field goals. "There's no doubt about it, we have to do a better job of scoring touchdowns to maximize our opportunities," Franklin said.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Franklin was head coach for three seasons at Vanderbilt before bringing his staff to State College. Akron's Bowden, son of former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, begins his third season at Akron but has never coached against Penn State at Beaver Stadium.
FLYING THE FLAG(S): Both teams were hampered in their openers by penalties. Akron committed seven penalties for 70 yards while Penn State was docked nine times for 90 yards, including an offensive pass interference call that negated a first-and-goal at the UCF 4.
DEFENSIVE STANDS: Penn State held UCF to 24 yards on 29 carries and Bowden cited the Nittany Lions' team speed and defensive front. "They're a very, very good defensive line," Bowden said. "I would think they are licking their chops this week just because the talent level Penn State has against what we got."
Hackenberg was impressed with Akron's team speed. "They fly to the ball," he said. "It's one of those games that can really sneak up on you because they're a great opponent and they're coached very well."