Flashes face Zips for Wagon Wheel

Thomas Gallick

The Kent State football team and the Akron Zips have many things in common: geographical location, a treasured wagon wheel, ambiguous team names and, most importantly this season, 0-1 records in the Mid-American Conference.

Both teams will look to remedy that situation when the rivals meet for the 51st time at noon tomorrow at Dix Stadium. Akron leads the all-time series 28-20-2 and beat the Flashes 27-20 last season at the Rubber Bowl.

Junior defensive lineman Sam Frist said the results of a loss to Akron can be catastrophic to player morale.

“(A loss to Akron) is depressing,” Frist said. “It affects your classes. It affects you in every way in your personal life. Losing to them is a disgrace, and we won’t let it happen.”

On the other hand, senior defensive back Rico Murray said the team can benefit greatly from a win over the Zips, especially this season. He said winning the wagon wheel could reinvigorate the Flashes going forward into conference play.

“We didn’t come out of the Ball State game the way we wanted to, so who better than Akron to get (a winning streak) started?” Murray said. “A win over Akron would be the catalyst for the rest of the season.”

Not only did the Flashes not start off the conference season with a win, but they also suffered some key losses to injuries in the game.

The Flashes lost 41-20 against Ball State in their MAC opener, and they lost senior linebacker Cedrick Maxwell for up to six weeks because of a fractured shin suffered in the game. Sophomore linebacker Cobrani Mixon, currently third on the team in tackles with 47, broke his foot in the game and will miss the rest of the season.



(1-4, 0-1 MAC) (2-3, 0-1 MAC)

Where: Dix Stadium

When: Noon tomorrow

Radio: WNIR 100.1 FM, Black Squirrel Rado


Junior running back Eugene Jarvis, who has not played since the Delaware State game Sept. 13, is doubtful for tomorrow with a lingering ankle injury.

Senior wide receiver Shawn Bayes said the Flashes cannot focus too much on their injury problems if they expect to win against Akron.

“(The injury issues) just give other people the chance to step up and make plays when we need them,” Bayes said.

This game will mark the 38th time the Flashes and Zips have played for the Wagon Wheel, a trophy presented to the winning team in the rivalry game since 1946. Kent State’s record against Akron is 19-17-1 when playing for the coveted wheel, and the Flashes are 12-7 at home in their history against the Zips.

Frist said bringing the Wagon Wheel back to Kent State, which the team did in 2006 only to lose it last year, would be an achievement second only to winning the conference championship.

“It is a step towards the MAC championship,” Frist said. “It is of second utmost importance because you have to get the Wagon Wheel in order to get to the MAC championship. If we want to win the MAC championship, we have to beat Akron.”

The Wagon Wheel is not the only thing that the two teams share. Because the schools are 11.6 miles apart, just 1.5 miles farther apart than Duke and North Carolina, players from the two teams run into each other often. Bayes said he sees Akron players in “quite a few places,” intensifying the need to get bragging rights for the rest of the year.

“If you go out just around to the mall, you see people with their Akron jackets,” Bayes said. “You see them a couple of times during the year before the game.”

Senior quarterback Julian Edelman said the Flashes need to put the game in perspective and prepare for it like any other game despite all the hype.

“You try not to hype it up too much,” Edelman said. “You’ve got to treat it like every other game (and) prepare mentally. You’ve got to get all the mental aspects of the game down, but of course there’s going to be those emotions because it is Akron.”

Edelman said the game is important not only because it is a rivalry game, but because of what the team has gone through this season in starting with a 1-4 record.

“We’re very upset, mad, hurt and emotional,” Edelman said. “This is a big game. We don’t care if we’re playing the Green Bay Packers or Stow High School. We’re going to go out there, and we’re going to play.”

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].