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After picking up its first Mid-American Conference win of the season last week, the Ball State football team begins a three-game home stand Saturday against Akron. The Cardinals have won the last five meetings against the Zips. To help prepare you for game day, lets learn a little more about the Zips.
It’s never easy to follow in the shadow of a successful father.
Akron (4-3, 2-1) head coach Terry Bowden has trailed his father Bobby’s coaching career with varying success.
Bobby spent 33 years as the leader of Florida State, guiding the Seminoles to national titles in 1993 and 1999.
Terry began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Florida State in 1982, under his dad. A year later, Terry became the youngest head coach in college football by being hired by Salem University in West Virginia at the age of 26.
A few years later, Terry left Salem for Samford, where he coached a familiar name in contemporary college football: Jimbo Fischer.
Fischer – as Bowden’s quarterback – was named the Division III Player of the Year in 1987.
The Bowden-Fischer relationship came full circle when Fischer replaced Bobby Bowden as the head coach at Florida State upon Bowden’s retirement in 2009, a position Fischer holds to this day.
After Samford, Terry Bowden inherited a sanctioned Auburn program. Struck by NCAA pay-to-play violations, Bowden produced an undefeated season for Auburn in 1993. They were ineligible for the postseason.
Fortunes turned in 1997 when Auburn played for the SEC title game, only to have Peyton Manning fire a game-winning 73-yard touchdown to trump Bowden and the Tigers.
The 1998 season was brief for Bowden as he was fired after a 1-5 start.
A quick stop at North Alabama from 2009-11 led to Bowden assuming the Akron position in 2012. Bowden took over a barren program that hadn’t compiled a winning season since 2005 and recorded two combined wins the previous two seasons.
With systematic growth, Akron peaked in 2015, earning their second bowl berth in program history. Under Bowden’s tutelage, the Zips have won 10 of their last 13 heading into Saturday’s game at Ball State.
Akron has missed its quarterback the past three weeks.
Third-year starter Thomas Woodson has not played since Sept. 24 due to injury. He is expected back as the signal caller for Akron on Saturday.
After four games, Woodson was one of the most efficient passers in the country, completing 66 percent of his attempts.
Astonishingly, Woodson recorded 13 passing scores in four games, tying Heisman front-runner Lamar Jackson at that point in the year.
Woodson has played one game against Ball State in his career and it did not go as planned.
In his second career start, he threw four interceptions in a 35-21 loss at Scheumann Stadium in 2014.
Two years more mature, Woodson seeks to return from injury and keep the Zips in first place in the MAC East.
For good reason, the talk all week has been Ball State running back James Gilbert’s 264-yard outburst against Buffalo.
The most engaging matchup on the field Saturday may be Gilbert-on-Gilbert.
James Gilbert’s adversary will be Akron weak side linebacker Ulysees Gilbert.
Akron’s Gilbert leads the team in tackles (77), tackles for a loss (8) and sacks (2). His tackling total ranks third in the MAC.
At 225-pounds, Gilbert has the athleticism of a wide receiver. In Akron’s week three win against Marshall, Gilbert returned a punt for a touchdown.
Which ever Gilbert has a more impactful Saturday could very well determine the victor of the game.