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September 9, 2013First the good news for Akron - the Zips earned their first win since the third game of the 2012 season (they're still looking for their first FBS victory since 2010). Now the bad - quarterback Nick Hirschman hurt himself while celebrating a touchdown.
"He's running down the field after a 68-yard touchdown pass and he sort of turns his ankle just running down the field and he can't go back in," an incredulous Terry Bowden said.
A Colorado transfer, Hirschman did account for three touchdowns - one rushing and two through the air - in directing Akron to a 21-16 third-quarter lead. He had initially entered the game only after starter Kyle Pohl suffered his own injury, but Pohl would return and help the Zips finish off FCS opponent James Madison, throwing for two scores of his own in the 35-33 win.
"We're just so excited with our victory over James Madison," said Bowden, now 2-12 in his two seasons. "It went down to the last play of the game when they were trying to kick a field goal and they threw a pass over the middle and couldn't stop the clock. So we win a tight one that we lost a lot of games last year in similar circumstances.
"Make no mistake when you play a top-15 team in I-AA, you're thankful to get out with a victory."
James Madison had driven to the Zips' 27-yard line as time expired, sending the 19,653 reported attendees into delirium.
Bowden couldn't wipe the smile off his face, and was still reveling it Monday, but he knows the challenge this week is enormous.
"We play Michigan next and they're one of the top teams in the country, and we know what this is -- a great challenge and a great opportunity," he said. "We're excited coming off a victory. It gives you more bounce in your step as you prepare for a great Michigan team."
Bowden was the head coach at Auburn from 1993-98, going 47-17-1 before becoming a TV commentator (he returned to coaching with the Division II North Alabama Lions from 2009-11) and during his broadcast days he worked a game at Michigan Stadium (2004 vs. Miami Ohio).
This week, his challenge is preparing his team for The Big House, 110,000 strong, and a Maize and Blue team that ranks 11th nationally after its 41-30 victory over Notre Dame.
"We went into Tennessee last year, it's another 100,000-seat venue but I don't think it was rocking as much as this one will be because they weren't having a great year," Bowden said.
"You can play crowd noise and learn to function without hearing. Other than that, there is nothing we can do to simulate that atmosphere. But as trying to function as a football team, mechanically, without being able to communicate verbally we can practice that. As for what goes through your veins as you come out of that tunnel, that's something these guys will be exposed to for the first time."
While he's not giving away the game, Bowden understands the circumstances of Saturday's contest. It's a financial boon for the Zips and not much else.
"It's a big paycheck that helps to pay our athletic department budget and our bills, but it's also a chance to make a statement for the conference," he said. "Michigan gave Central Michigan a big stomping last week, but you want to play the best always.
"You have to understand the circumstances. I coached at Auburn when we used to have MAC teams come play us. For our players, the key is to prepare to win a football game, prepare to play the best they can play, and let things happen. Don't go out there and think you have the weight of the conference on your shoulders.
"We're just trying to win football games and I'm excited to take our team up to one of the great venues in college football."