AKRON, Ohio – Akron utilized a two-quarterback system to combine for 287 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air in a 35-33 victory over James Madison in its home opener at InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field on Saturday night.
The UA defense sealed the win with a stop of a JMU two-point conversion attempt with 5:18 remaining and a fourth-down stop on the Dukes' final drive at the Akron 27-yard line as time expired.
James Madison opened the game with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that featured a balanced attack with seven rushes and seven passes. Dae'Quan Scott scored the game's first points on a three-yard screen pass from Michael Birdsong, but the Zips' defense spoiled the two-point conversion attempt that followed.
Hirschman came off the bench early in the second quarter for Akron (1-1) and ran for a one-yard score on a QB sneak with 8:42 left in the second frame, capping off a 13-play, 77-yard drive to put the Zips on the board.
After a James Madison (1-1) turnover, Hirschman found Zach D'Orazio in the endzone on a two-yard toss less than a minute before halftime, giving UA its first lead of the season at 14-13. The junior QB would finish the night with 144 yards on 6-of-10 passing.
JMU took back the advantage with a 45-yard field goal at the 7:38 mark of the third quarter. Hirschman answered less than a minute later, connecting on a 68-yard touchdown strike to sophomore receiver Andrew Pratt (three catches for 118 yards) that put Akron back on top at 21-16.
The Dukes went ahead 24-21 on a seven play, 61-yard drive at the 4:00 mark of the third quarter. Pohl later returned and gave Akron the lead at 28-24, courtesy of a three-yard TD pass to D'Orazio. The drive was part of the sophomore QB's 14 completion effort that produced 143 yards and two touchdowns.
James Madison cut the deficit to one on a 29-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, but the Zips separated themselves again when Jerrod Dillard caught a 24-yard pass from Pohl with 8:19 left in the game. One more JMU touchdown at the hands of Birdsong made it 35-33, a lead that Akron would ride out through the final minutes and a last-ditch Dukes' drive.
Johnny Robinson led the Akron defense with 10 tackles and Malachi Freeman added eight stops and two pass break-ups.
The Zips travel to nationally-ranked Michigan on Sept. 14. Akron's first-ever visit to the "Big House" is scheduled for noon ET and will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Zips Notebook: In six drives this season (one at Central Florida, five tonight), junior QB Nick Hirschman has led the Zips to four touchdowns ... senior DL Nico Caponi has 3.0 sacks through the first two games of the season (one tonight) ... Caponi entered the season with 3.5 career sacks ... junior RB Jawon Chisholm's 55-yard run in the third quarter was the longest of his career and put him over 2,000 yards for his career ... Chisholm's previous long was 50 yards at Kent State (Nov. 3, 2012) ... the Zips debuted a new helmet design for tonight's contest.