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Falcons fight through bad weather beat Akron, become bowl eligible

It has been 16 days of waiting, 16 days of hearing about how important this game is to the Falcons’ Mid-American Conference Championship hopes.

The Falcons came out after that extended break and proved that they still are the best team in the MAC East Division, with their 27-10 win at the University of Akron Tuesday night.

“I thought that [the players] handled their time off well,” head coach Dino Babers said. “What I’m proud about is the way they went about their time, not only on the field but academically as well.”

With that win they now have a two game lead over Akron in the MAC East Division.

Before the Falcons were able to earn that two game lead, they had to deal with the weather. For about three full quarters the Falcons and Zips had to deal with nonstop rain and 15 mile per hour winds blowing the football every way possible.

Each team battled through the rain, but both offenses struggled in the first half. The Falcons had the upper hand and led at halftime 6-3.

“With the way that weather was … I felt good about 6-3,” Babers said. “The weather was big, but when it’s like that you just have to be patient.”

In the second half as the rain continued to fall the Falcons defense began to make more of a difference. The momentum seemed to change when senior defense lineman Taylor Royster recovered a fumble in the end zone with 9:29 left in the third quarter.

“I saw the quarterback fumble the ball and James Sanford hit him so Pohl couldn’t get it,” Royster said. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”

With that recovery the Falcons took a 13-3 lead over the Zips and it was Royster’s third of the year.

“That put a dagger right into them,” said sophomore running back Fred Coppet. “You could tell that they wanted to quit before that. That just killed them right there.”

From there the Falcons kept the momentum and never let it go. On the next possession for the Zips, Falcon freshman defensive back Nick Johnson intercepted his second pass of the night.

The offense which had struggled most of the night followed that with a James Knapke and Roger Lewis touchdown connection from 11-yards out. That gave the Falcons a 20-3 lead which just about sealed the Zips fate.

“We just adjust during the game,” said sophomore Fred Coppet. “We start off pretty slow but we just adjust after that.”

The Zips and Falcons would trade fourth quarter rushing touchdowns before the clock ran out.

The difference in the game was the amount of turnovers the Falcons caused on the defensive end. They forced five turnovers, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

“We weren’t going to be a good defense until our back end grew up,” Babers said.

The secondary has grown up with two freshmen forcing all three of those interceptions. Nick Johnson forced two and dropped a third, while Clint Stephens had one also.

“I feel like we finally just put our foot down,” Johnson said. “I think we got tired of teams beating up on us and pointing the secondary out as a weak point. We really took offense to that and it really changed our mentalities.”

The defense also forced three fumbles and recovered two of them, both being recovered by Royster. With his two recoveries he now leads the MAC in fumble recoveries this season with four.

Again like it was before the 16 day break, the Falcons defense held their own and the offense came through when they were needed.

“I thought the seniors really made plays. I know the freshmen got turnovers, but if you look at that defense there was some smacking going one,” Babers said “You could close your eyes and hear that defense and that’s when you know you have a good defense.”

In the Akron rain and wind the Falcons found a way to win and are now first place in the MAC East Division and bowl eligible.

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