Just another MAC game?

Nick Walton

Football looks past Wagon Wheel rivalry on quest for possible MAC championship

As the annual matchup against rival Akron approaches, the Kent State football team’s focus isn’t solely on beating the Zips.

The Flashes’ focus is getting closer to a Mid-American Conference East division championship.

“I don’t want to hear anything about Wagon Wheels and rivalries or any of that type of stuff because all that will take care of itself,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said. “What we need to focus on is just what we’ve done the last three or four weeks.

“We’ve been very focused and very singular-minded about each one of these games being their own championship, and this one is no different.”

After defeating Western Michigan 26-14 on Saturday, Kent State maintains a share of second place in the division. Senior wide receiver Jameson Konz said it won’t be hard to move past the rivalry.

“We’re focused one game at a time,” Konz said. “It’s a MAC Championship game every time we play a MAC game. Regardless of the rivalry or anything like that, we’re going to approach this game just like we do any other MAC game – we need the (win), and that’s all that matters.”

Against Western Michigan, freshmen quarterback Spencer Keith and wide receiver Tyshon Goode continued their offensive production by connecting for two touchdowns.

Martin said the chemistry between younger players and veterans has helped relax the team.

“I think we got a really good mix of older guys that are making plays and then younger guys that are making a lot of plays,” Martin said. “It’s probably been a good mixture for us because the younger guys don’t look at the magnitude of the game or situation. They just are enjoying playing as a freshman.”

Konz was second in receiving against the Broncos with 74 yards on five receptions and one fumble. Konz said the team’s reaction to his fumble represented how the Flashes do not dwell on mistakes unlike in previous seasons.

“In the past years that I’ve been here, if people get down or if our team is having a struggle, you could see the frustration on the sideline,” Konz said. “Now we have such team unity that, if something goes wrong, we have faith in each other.”

Defensively, the Flashes’ streak of nine quarters without giving up an offensive touchdown ended against Western Michigan, but the defense still excelled Saturday, holding the Broncos to 38 rushing yards and recording four sacks.

Junior defensive end Monte Simmons had five tackles including three sacks. For the second consecutive week, a Kent State defensive lineman was named MAC East defensive player of the week when Simmons won the award.

Against Akron, Martin the key to stopping the Zips’ offense will be to negate the running game.

“If we can make them one dimensional, we’ll be OK defensively,” Martin said. “If they start to run the football on us, it will be a long day.”

Despite the Zips having just one win this season, Martin said beating Akron will be a challenge.

“There’s plenty of motivation for Akron to play well,” Martin said. “They’re a good football team; they’ve just had some hard luck this year with the type of injuries they’ve had.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].