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The View From Pluto: Akron Football Channels 'Buchtel College' in a Win For the Ages

The University of Akron stunned the Big Ten's Northwestern
The University of Akron stunned the Big Ten's Northwestern

The University of Akron football team won its biggest game in more than a century over the weekend. The Zips stunned Northwestern, 39-34. Akron hadn't beaten a Big Ten team since 1894, when it beat Ohio State, 12-6.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto said it was a remarkable come-from-behind win. 

"They were down 21-3 at the half," Pluto said. "So, Northwestern probably thought it was over." Then, the Zips scored 36 second half points, 21 of them defensive. 

And, Pluto said Northwestern was the heavy favorite. "They won 10 games last year. Sometimes Northwestern’s team has been pretty bad. Not this one."

Money games

Teams like Akron and Kent State play a couple powerhouse schools every season. Pluto calls them "money games" because the smaller schools get paid for what's expected to be a brutal loss.

Akron is 0-7 in games against Big Ten colleges since 2010. Last season, they lost to Penn State, 52-0.

"So, Northwestern just paid $1.2 million to get beat by Akron in Evanston," Pluto said. 

The Zips were also supposed get $1.2 million to play at Nebraska to open the season, but the game was postponed due to weather. 

Bowden's team

Pluto said it's the biggest victory of Terry Bowden’s coaching career in Akron. Bowden, in his seventh season with the Zips, has a 31-33 record. Last season, the team finished 7-7 and won the MAC East Division. 

Channeling Buchtel College

Beating Northwestern is Akron's biggest victory in 124 years. Back then, the University of Akron was called Buchtel College. It didn't become a public school until 1913. It was also before the Big Ten was founded, in 1896. 

In 1894, Akron beat Ohio State, 12-6. But, it wasn't even considered a major victory, because Ohio State was far from the powerhouse it is now. 

“The stakes were high when Buchtel College faced Ohio State," Pluto said. "What was on the line for the winning team? Ten new footballs!"

Akron's coach during that game was John Heisman, an early architect of the sport whose name adorns the trophy awarded to the most oustanding college football player. 

"Heisman had been hired the year before to run Akron's football, baseball and run the gym program. Some faculty thought they were paying him too much money -- $900," Pluto said. 

Iowa State up next

The Zips next face a tough opponent in Iowa State. While Iowa State is 0-2, they lost to two very tough programs -- Oklahoma and Iowa. The Cyclones beat the Zips 41-14 on the road last season. 

“But it’s not playing at Ohio State and not playing at Nebraska," Pluto said. "If Iowa State doesn’t take them seriously, Akron could win."

Editor's note:  This article originally indicated that the University of Akron was getting paid $2.1 million for games against Northwestern and Nebraska.  The number has been corrected to $1.2 million.

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