Wheel of Misfortune

Nick Walton

Football loses 28-20, falls back in MAC East race

Watch video from the game.

Heading into their game against rival Akron, Kent State football players said they weren’t focusing on winning the Wagon Wheel.

After a 28-20 loss Saturday at InfoCision Stadium, the Flashes’ focus will be on keeping their Mid-American Conference East division championship hopes alive.

“It just wasn’t our night, but our guys really played hard and competed all the way down to the end, and I love the heart of our football team,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said. “We got a great shot to be a 7-5 football team. And if somebody had told us that at the beginning of the season, we’d taken it.”

Kent State’s offense was unable to establish the running game after sophomore running back Jacquise “Speedy” Terry left the game with an injury in the first quarter. Terry’s 25-yard run on the first play from scrimmage was the longest rushing play of the game for Kent State.

The Flashes only rushed for 38 yards on 21 carries, making them one-dimensional offensively.

“(The lack of production) wasn’t just losing Terry,” Martin said. “(Freshman running back) Dri Archer came in there and gave us a burst and really made some plays. We just didn’t establish anything up front. We didn’t get a push and the couple times we did, we may have made a bad cut or something. But we just didn’t run the ball well.”

Freshman quarterback Spencer Keith completed 30-of-59 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice. Keith wasn’t sacked but was under pressure for most of the game.

Archer was effective in the passing game, catching eight balls for 90 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter to make the score 14-10.

Down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Flashes narrowed the lead to 28-20 when Keith completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Kendrick Pressley.

Kent State’s defense would stop the Zips on their ensuing possession, but Akron managed to down its punt at the 1-yard line. The Flashes’ comeback fell short as Keith was intercepted by Akron junior linebacker Mike Thomas with 33 seconds left in the game.

“We were confident that if the defense got us the ball back, we would be able to drive it down, but a few bad plays here and there stopped us,” Keith said. “I just got to focus more during the game . and execute more on offense.”

Game notes

Just like rubber

For the third consecutive year, Akron keeps the Wagon Wheel and improves its all-time lead in the rivalry to 30-20-2, including 22-8-2 in Akron. The Flashes were 8-13-1 at the now defunct Rubber Bowl and are now 0-1 in Akron’s new InfoCision Stadium.

Going for three

While the offense stalled at times on Saturday, freshman kicker Freddy Cortez converted on both field goal attempts. Cortez has made 9-of-10 field goals during conference play.

After allowing a total of 29 rushing yards in the previous two games, Kent State’s defense allowed 168 yards on the ground against the Zips on 40 carries.

Senior running back Alex Allen scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on Akron’s opening drive to give the Zips a 7-3 lead. Akron extended its lead in the second quarter when freshman quarterback Patrick Nicely completed a 59-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jeremy LaFrance.

Nicely completed 19-of-34 passes for 261 yards, threw one interception and connected with LaFrance on another touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Flashes’ defense was unable to sack Nicely and failed to record a sack for the first time since Sept. 19 against Iowa State.

“He was a little bit more mobile than I thought,” junior safety Brian Lainhart said. “He got out of some things that I didn’t think he would’ve gotten out of, but he played good. He made plays with his feet, which helped him.”

Two fumbles by Akron were overturned by replay, including a 70-yard recovery and touchdown by junior safety Dan Hartman. Hartman’s score would have cut Akron’s lead to 21-19 before an extra point.

“I’m assuming they were just overturned because that’s what replay said,” Martin said. “I know we’re about 0-90 on those things, but that’s a part of it – just didn’t go our way.”

Despite being in third place in the division, Martin is confident about the team’s chances of having a winning season.

“We are still at the top of the MAC East right now, even after this game,” Martin said. “We need a little help now, but Ohio and Temple still have to play each other so somebody’s getting a loss right there . Everything is still in front of us as far as what we want. We can still be a seven-win football team, and I said all along that this would be a winning football team and this team would be in a bowl game – and by gum, that’s what we’re going to be.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected]