Robert Stein made three field goals and Jatavis Brown led a smothering defense as Akron earned its first victory in a bowl, a 23-21 over Utah State on Tuesday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Stein, who became the school's career scoring leader with 268 points, connected from 29, 33 and 46 yards, and was selected the game's MVP. His longest kick gave the Zips a 23-14 with 8:15 remaining.
Akron (8-5) finished with eight wins for the first time since moving up to FBS in 1987. The record came four years to the day after the school hired coach Terry Bowden.
While Stein provided the difference in scoring, it was Akron's defense that made the lead stick.
Brown, the MAC defensive player of the year, had eight tackles along with 1 1/2 sacks, 2 1/2 tackles for loss, and a critical forced fumble.
Utah State (6-7) mounted a comeback behind senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Sharp with 1:12 remaining to pull to 23-21. But Akron recovered the onside kick and then stopped one final flea flicker play by Utah State as time expired.
Utah State head coach Bobby Bowden had this to say about the team's victory. "Proud of our guys for the way they battled at the very end there was some things we obviously didn't do real well early namely in the red zone on offense. There were times in the third and fourth quarter we didn't get off the field on defense on third downs and so that was disappointing but i liked their fight the character of our kids it was a battle all the way down to the very end."
"Eight wins in a season hasn't been done in our 28 years as a division one team we've never won a bowl game in our 28 years as a division one team and when these guys came here we said we're not coming to show were coming to win.” said Akron’s head coach after the Zips won the football game.