Second-year Akron football coach Rob Ianello has plenty to worry about. His team finished just 1-11 last season, losing 11 straight games before winning its season finale against Buffalo. He has a team expected to finish near the bottom of the MAC-East standings again this season, a team that plays in a new stadium (one of the nicest facilities in the conference), but has yet to prove itself worthy of the nice, new digs.
InfoCision Stadium is a beautiful facility with plenty of perks. It is the kind of place a potential recruit could fall in love with...especially if that recruit is selecting between Akron and other MAC schools like Kent State, Bowling Green and Miami. Players want to be pampered, and Akron has the facilities to make football players very comfortable.
While Ianello scored one of the top recruiting classes in the MAC this off-season, one week into the season these recruits might be looking at their coach with a bit of confusion. And they should.
After Ohio State coach Like Fickell gave the ball to running back Carlos Hyde three straight times to run out the clock in the Buckeyes' 42-0 trouncing of the Zips, Ianello criticized Fickell's sportsmanship at midfield during the post-game handshake.
Apparently Ianello was not happy Fickell gave the ball to Hyde, who was closing in on a 100-yard rushing day, to end the game. Apparently he wanted Fickell to have his quarterback take a knee instead of handing off the football. This is a silly and childish thing to be upset over.
Maybe Ianello should have been upset over his defensive backfield, a backfield that allowed untested Buckeyes quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller to complete 20 of 28 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns. Maybe he should have been upset with his front seven, a group that allowed the Buckeyes to pick up 224 rushing yards and control the ball for most of the game.
Ianello probably should have been worrying about the 90 total yards and only five first downs his Zips were able to muster, or the fact that his team was only 2-of-13 on third down conversions. The point is that Ianello has plenty more to worry about than his opponent running the ball three times in a row to wind down clock and end the game.
The Buckeyes, if they were running up the score, could have been passing the ball downfield as the clock ran down. Fickell has a team in turmoil and an offense that needs as many reps as possible before the Big Ten season begins. If he wanted to run the score up he could have put 70 points on the scoreboard. He didn't, and Ianello should be thankful for that.
Ianello had to have known his Zips were in for a long afternoon in the days, weeks and months leading up to the game. The final score, 42-0, was respectable. No one lost face because a MAC team facing one of the top teams in the country is usually going to get blown out. Kent State went to Alabama Saturday and lost 48-7. Instead of whining about the score, Kent coach Darrell Hazell talked about his team learning from the defeat and moving forward...looking to get better.
"Well that was obviously not the way we wanted to start out," Hazell said after the game. "I'm frustrated that we didn't execute offensively, but I thought the defense played well once we settled in. Our special teams didn't play very well. We dropped a punt, had one dribble back and our kickoff returns weren't good enough. We need to stay together as a team though. I believe we will, but we need to get a whole lot better by next weekend."
No whining, no complaining about the score, no 'woe is me' attitude. Maybe Ianello should have taken some advice from his junior linebacker Brian Wagner, who looked at the game with some perspective.
"Ohio State is a tough team," he said. "They are big and that kind of power ball is going to help us against Temple. They run the same type of offense and it was good foreshadowing for Temple. We need to get it together for next Saturday because we have a very tough opponent."
That's right, instead of worrying about the other coach and looking for a lack of sportsmanship that simply was not there, Wagner looked at what the Zips could take back to Akron from the game.
Rob Ianello is a good football coach and I think Akron is a program headed in the right direction. That being said, the last thing Ianello and the Zips need is to become an object of ridicule. And that's what Ianello turned them into Saturday in Columbus. Instead of taking his lumps, cashing the check and moving on Ianello, with his critical comments of Fickell, elicited plenty of eye-rolling and chuckles. He, and his program, are better than that.