Flashes rally to 35-24 win over Akron


Hannah Potes

Kent State offensive lineman Brian Winters holds up the Wagon Wheel with Flash, after the Kent State football team won the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge against Akron on Nov. 3. The Flashes won the game against the Zips 35-24. Photo by Hannah Potes.

Tim Dorst

Fans expecting a highly competitive game between Kent State and Akron in the annual Wagon Wheel game received exactly what they bargained for Saturday. The Zips seemed prepared for a fight in the first half, but the second half was a completely different story.

The Flashes scored 21 unanswered points to rally and defeat the Zips 35-24 Saturday afternoon at Dix Stadium.

Kent State won its seventh straight game to improve its record to 8-1 this season. The Flashes are also 5-0 in the Mid-American Conference, having now won nine straight games against teams currently in the MAC.

Head coach Darrell Hazell said the team’s defense did a great job at making adjustments at halftime and keeping Akron off of the scoreboard.

“In the first half our defense couldn’t get off the field,” Hazell said. “Akron did an excellent job offensively keeping us off-balance and converting on third downs. I think we started challenging the receivers a lot more and changing the scheme a little, and we held them to no points in the second half.”

Akron lead 24-14 at halftime, but the momentum shifted on Kent State’s first possession of the second half. After the defense forced the Zips to punt, the Flashes used the combination of running backs Trayion Durham and Dri Archer to drive from their own six-yard line into Zips territory.

On fourth down and a yard to go, Durham took a toss from senior quarterback Spencer Keith and ran it six yards into the end zone. The touchdown cut Akron’s lead down to three points.

On the Zips’ next drive, senior defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix stripped the ball away from running back Jawon Chisholm, and senior linebacker Luke Batton recovered the ball for the Flashes on the Akron 41-yard line.

It took the Flashes just four plays before Archer zipped past Akron’s defenders 30 yards on a reverse for the touchdown, giving Kent State its first lead of the game. Archer finished the game with 126 rushing yards on 11 carries.

The trick play pushed Kent State’s lead to 28-24.

“You never know what (Dri’s) going to give you every time he touches the ball,” Hazell said. “He’s definitely fun to watch out there.”

Kent State’s defensive unit contained Akron’s offense for the majority of the second half, forcing four straight punts. The Flashes couldn’t capitalize on many of the defensive stops, so the score remained 28-24 in favor of Kent State leading into the final quarter.

With the clock at 4:21 and the ball on their own 26-yard line, the Zips gave one last push to attempt to regain the lead. Facing a fourth down and one situation, a run by Chisholm was stopped at the line by senior defensive lineman Jake Dooley, and Kent State recovered the ball once again.

Kent State began running the clock down with Durham, as he pounded his way through the line on each handoff. The Flashes faced a fourth-and-one of their own on the drive, but Durham made sure the result would not be the same as the Zips’ failed attempt.

Durham took a toss from quarterback Spencer Keith 15 yards for his third touchdown of the game, sealing the game for the Flashes. Durham finished with 107 yards on 24 carries, recording his fourth 100-plus yard rushing performance in the last five games five games.

The win marks the first time the Flashes have won the Wagon Wheel three consecutive years since 1954 — when Kent State won the matchup nine straight years. The Zips fall to 1-9 this season, including an 0-5 record against MAC teams.

Kent State will now prepare to hit the road again to take on the Miami (OH) Redhawks Saturday, at 1 p.m. on Nov. 10 inside Yager Stadium.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].