Flashes football looks for third straight Wagon Wheel victory
- Written by Tim Dorst
- Hits: 573
The Battle for the Wagon Wheel has been a major rivalry in college football since its inaugural game in 1947. Since then, Kent State and Akron have battled back and forth, each claiming the prized wheel at one time or another.
This weekend, the storied rivalry continues.
The Flashes will host the University of Akron Zips at 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Dix Stadium in the 42nd edition of the Wagon Wheel game.
Kent State leads the all-time series 21-19-1 and have won the last two games against the Zips. A win on Saturday would give the Flashes their longest reign in the feud since they won nine straight against Akron from 1946-1954.
Head coach Darrell Hazell said a rivalry such as this always gets the players pumped up and gives them another reason to play hard.
“The guys know what this game means and how big it is,” Hazell said. “Records don’t matter in this game. Both teams are going to get it there all. We have to be prepared for whatever (Akron) sends at us.”
The Zips come into the game with a 1-8 record, including 0-5 against Mid-American Conference opponents, under first-year head coach Terry Bowden. Bowden, the son of legendary college football coach Bobby Bowden, said the Kent State-Akron rivalry reminds him of other classic rivalries in college football.
National FBS Rankings
|Team||Passing yards per game||Rushing yards per game||Points per game||Points allowed per game|
|Kent State||110th (177.1 avg)||23rd (212.1 avg)||38th (33.9 avg)||52nd (24.5 avg)|
|Akron||13th (316.0 avg)||105th (120.1 avg)||64th (28.0 avg)||117th (37.3 avg)|
“I coached in one of the great football rivalries in the country, Alabama versus Auburn,” Bowden said. “While that was always across the state, this one seems to be across the street. The fans sit in the same restaurants and have to live this one out all the time.”
Bowden said he conveyed the message to his players about the importance of this game, and he said he hope the Zips can come out aggressively and play a good game.
Kent State is looking to extend its winning streak to seven games and get one step closer to its first bowl game appearance in 40 years. Sophomore running back Trayion Durham said he feel this game will not be as easy as it might look like on paper.
“We know they haven’t played their best football in a couple years, but that doesn’t matter,” Durham said. “This is an important game. It’s bragging rights. This is also a MAC Conference game, so it’s definitely huge.”
Durham will likely be a big part of the Flashes offense Saturday, as he currently leads the team in rushing yards with 780.
Senior offensive lineman Kent Cleveland said there would be nothing sweeter than finishing his college career with the wagon wheel still on the Kent State campus.
“We haven’t won it three years in a row since the ‘50s,” Cleveland said. “We’re changing the program for the better and taking that next step, and to win that for a third straight year would make it even better.”
Cleveland added that the players keep this game on the their minds all season in anticipation.
“The clock ticks down every day leading up to this one,” Cleveland said. “It’s huge. We’ve got to win this one.”
One player who is new to the rivalry is freshman wide receiver Josh Boyle, the team’s leading receiver. Boyle said the Kent State-Akron has a completely different feel than other games ont he schedule.
“This isn’t like all the other MAC games,” Boyle said. “This one’s a lot bigger and another notch up. So everybody gets more pumped.”
Boyle also understands that Akron’s overall performance this season doesn’t change the way the team prepares in the days leading up to the game.
“They’ve been in every single game this season, so it’s not like they’re getting blown out every week,” Boyle said. “We’re going to have to go out there and fight and play just like we always do week in and week out.”
With the team coming off of its upset win over Rutgers this past week, Hazell said he isn’t considered that the Flashes will suffer a letdown against a hungry Zips team.
“Not with the way this team plays,” Hazell said. “They’re very mature, and they prepare hard every week. I’m very confident that our guys will prepare hard for this game. In a rivalry game like this, you better play as hard as you possibly can. Doesn’t matter who you play.”
Spencer Keith: 109-192, 1,163 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs
David Fisher: 14-23, 230 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Dalton Williams: 260-426, 2,691 yards, 22 TDs, 12 INTs
Kyle Pohl: 10-16, 153 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INTs
Trayion Durham: 166, carries, 780 yards, 4.7 avg, 8 TDs
Dri Archer: 86 carries, 766 yards, 8.9 avg, 9 TDs
Jawon Chisholm: 124 carries, 688 yards, 5.5 avg, 2 TDs
Conor Hundley: 62 carries, 254 yards, 4.1 avg, 3 TDs
Cortez kicking his way into KSU record books
- Written by Tim Dorst
- Hits: 469
After the Flashes scored their first touchdown in the opening quarter of their game against Rutgers University, senior kicker Freddy Cortez lined up in a familiar spot. The holder kneeled down seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, and Cortez stood a couple yards behind at a slight angle.
The ball was snapped, the holder lined the ball upright, and Cortez booted it straight down the middle of the goal posts -- just like he had done many times before.
While a kick like this has become a normal sight for Kent State football fans, this particular extra point had more significance than perhaps any previous kick in Cortez’ career. The kick gave Cortez his 247th career point as a member of the Flashes, which moved him past Josh Cribbs on the team’s all-time scoring list. With a seemingly routine play, Cortez cemented his place in Kent State history.
“It’s definitely an honor to be up there with his name,” Cortez said. “Especially being who he is and the kind of player he is. He meant a lot to this program. At the same time, I feel very happy and humbled for what I achieved with that goal. It’s took four long years to get there.”
Cortez said he had battled through everything that has happened to him, good and bad, over the last four seasons with the Flashes, and it is all culminating into the team’s historic 2012 season.
“I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” Cortez said. “Right now we’re on a good up. So for that to happen at the same time that the season is going the way it is, it’s just that much better for me and my family.”
He attended Fort Meade High School in Fort Meade, Fla., where he was the starting kicker and punter for three years before committing to Kent State in 2009. The move took a toll on Cortez, as it was the first time in his life he had to be away from his family for a long period of time.
Cortez said these last four years have produced countless great moments and memories that have defined him as a player and as a person.
“I’ve got memories here that I’m going to keep for the rest of my life,” Cortez said. “From hitting my very first field goal from 34 yards out against Miami in the rain, to hitting the last one from last year against Temple from 28 yards.”
Cortez has made major impacts on the people around him as well. Head coach Darrell Hazell said Cortez has come up big for the Flashes in many different situations.
“Freddy’s a spectacular kicker,” Hazell said. “He’s done a great job making big kicks for us. He’s very clutch, and it all starts with his work ethic.”
Sophomore wide receiver Chris Humphrey acts as holder for all of Cortez’s field goals and extra points, and he said from his experience he knows Cortez isn’t the kind of guy who focuses strictly on records.
“He’s not always talking about it or worried about it,” Humphrey said. “He has one focus just like everyone else does, and that’s to win a MAC Championship. He just comes out every day like it’s a regular day and does his thing.”
Humphrey said Cortez’s vibrant personality and focused demeanor helps the team stay calm and keeps the players on track.
“Off the field, he’s a great guy to be around, and on the field, he’s a mentor,” Humphrey said. “Once he steps onto the field, it’s all business. But he know how to lighten the mood and when it’s the right time to.”
After college, Cortez plans to return to his family and make up for four years of lost time. When he walks off the field for the final time, he said he hopes he leaves a legacy behind him.
“For me, I want to be known as the best kicker to ever come through Kent State,” Cortez said. “And I hope I leave that mark on people, on the fans and on my coaches.”
Flashes soccer hopeful to arrive in MAC finals
- Written by Erika Brun
- Hits: 267
Kent State soccer will face top-seeded Miami at 11 a.m. Friday for a spot in the Mid-American Conference final.
This is the fourth time in program history and the first time since 2006 that Kent has participated in the semifinal match.
"It's an awesome feeling to finally get back to the semifinals," said senior midfielder Sara Henderson. "I am so proud of my team and the passion that we [have] for the game. I know this team is capable of a lot."
The Flashes (13-4-2) defeated Ball State with a 4-0 shutout last Sunday of the MAC Tournament. This was their ninth shutout of the season. Kent took 14 shots with 8 on goal.
Miami played Ohio in the semifinals and defeated them 1-0. The Red Hawks scored early in the first half on a long throw into the box where it was shot 10 yards out. Miami took at total of 30 shots with 16 on goal.
"We need to play our game," head coach Rob Marinaro said. "We need to play very well and keep up this type of intensity and you’re in the play offs now. It’s a 90 minute game and we need to do our best."
The Flashes faced the Red Hawks during the regular MAC play and lost 4-2.
Junior defender Morgan Mah said that for the team to win, they will have to keep playing sharp and keep a positive mentality.
Junior forward Jaclyn Dutton and sophomore forward Stephanie Haugh are the only two players to reach over 20 points in one season in program history.
"I think we really need to focus on playing our game and making them play to us," Henderson said. "We need to go into the game with a lot of confidence."
Browns hoping to climb from bottom of AFC North
- Written by Tom Withers
- Hits: 424
They’ve been on the bottom for so long it seems as if the Browns are stuck there.
With an abysmal 15-48 record inside the AFC North since it was formed in 2002, Cleveland has been the rugged division’s longtime punching bag and cellar dwellers. They’ve been down and stayed down.
That could soon change.
One of the NFL’s youngest teams, the Browns believe they are closing the gap on Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh — all playoff teams in 2011.
“Everybody in the division is beatable,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “I just feel our team is starting to become one of the good teams. We’re on the verge of being at the top.”
It’s going to be a long, slow climb, but the Browns (2-6) are showing signs that they’re finally headed in the right direction. They’ve won two straight home games, and following a victory over San Diego, the Browns are feeling pretty good about themselves heading into Sunday’s rematch with Baltimore.
The Ravens (5-2) have beaten the Browns nine straight times. Baltimore defeated Cleveland 23-16 on Sept. 27, but the Browns were in the game until the final seconds despite a costly interception, several dropped passes and losing kick return specialist/wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who was heavily involved in the game plan, to a concussion in the first quarter.
Like Haden, Cribbs sees the Browns, who are just 4-23 in the division since 2008 and have never been better than 3-3, catching up to the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers. However, Cribbs said the only way for Cleveland to accelerate the process and truly show its improved is to start beating up the bullies on a regular basis.
“I feel like you have to,” Cribbs said. “What other way can you? You can say we always play them well and fought hard, but the real test is taking advantage of our opportunities by winning, not by coming close. A win is a win.”
For several years, there was a huge disparity in talent between Cleveland and the rest of the division. That’s no longer the case as Browns general manager Tom Heckert drafted well, infusing the roster the past three years with up-and-coming players like Haden, defensive tackle Phil Taylor and a trio of rising rookies: running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was plucked in the second round of the supplemental draft.
The Browns look better, and they’re playing better, too. Cleveland is no longer a pushover, not that the Ravens ever considered the Browns as such. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has won all nine games he’s played against the Browns, a lopsided statistic he says may be a bit deceiving.
“It’s kind of crazy that we haven’t lost, because there have been a lot of close ones,” Flacco said. “Even all the way back to my rookie year, they were beating us up there and we came back. There have been a lot of games that have come down to the wire, including the last one we played against them.”
Before they beat the Bengals Oct. 14, the Browns had lost 12 straight division games. By contrast, the Ravens have won 10 in a row inside the AFC North, the league’s longest current streak.
For the Browns to be taken seriously as an improved team, they need to start stringing together wins over their division rivals. And now that the weather has gotten colder, Cribbs said there’s nothing like a division foe to get the blood boiling.
“It’s great football in the AFC North, especially at this time of year,” he said. “This is what football is all about, playing football at this time of year when the weather is bad, the field is bad. It really shows what you’re made of. If you succumb to the elements it really shows. It showed last week playing against a team from California, they’re not used to these elements and we have to take advantage of it. Now we’re playing for a team that comes from the same elements. It’s going to be a nitty-gritty football game.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh expects nothing less. Although he’s also 9-0 against Cleveland, Harbaugh doesn’t see the Browns as the division weakling.
“We’ve always had the greatest respect for all the teams in this division,” he said. “Cleveland plays us to the wire every single year. It’s always a tough, physical game.
Video: Ballad of the Wagon Wheel
- Written by Jon Reisdorf
- Hits: 675
Poem voiced and written by TV2 Sports Reporter Jon Reisdorf. Follow TV2 Sports on Twitter @TV2KSUSports.
The Kent State football team plays Akron this weekend. The Wagon Wheel trophy is the Flashes to defend. The rivalry has been around for many years, and each season one team goes home in tears. The teams have produced many a great guy Like Joshua Cribbs or some guy named Frye. So here is a ballad to explain the Wagon Wheel for you to enjoy the passion they feel. Check out the rest of the poem on the video above.