KSU prepares for cross-town rivals

Deanna Stevens

Kent State junior runningback Jon Drager is tackled by Bowling Green linebacker John Haneline at the 6-yard line during Saturday’s game. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

Most college football teams would not worry about an old, broken-down wagon wheel.

But after being held hostage by Akron for the past three years, the Kent State football team is aiming to get it back.

The Flashes (2-2, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) return home, after going 2-1 on the road, to play the Zips (2-2, 0-1 MAC) in the Battle for the Wagon Wheel at 2 p.m. Saturday at Dix Stadium.

This game marks the 49th year of the tradition. The blue and gold wheel has the scores of previous games on its spokes, as well as any logos the victors want to add.

The winning school’s athletic director is in charge of transporting the wheel to the games.

Kent State Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy said the tradition is a fun way to irritate the opposing school.

“On one side, we put the plaque and the score of the games, and on the other side Akron does,” Kennedy said. “And if we win it, we repaint it in our true colors. If they win it, they paint it in their true colors. So we kind of try to agitate each other.”

The game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Net Ohio as the Mid-American Conference Game of the Week.

The Flashes will look to defeat the Zips for the first time since the Josh Cribbs-era ended in 2003. But Kent State coach Doug Martin said it will not be easy.

“With that 3-3 defense they’re able to blitz anybody up in the front,” Martin said. “You’ve got to be really sharp. They are doing a great job of limiting the big play. That is going to be a tough test for our offense to move the ball consistently.”

Defensively, the Flashes have plenty of work to do. With senior quarterback Luke Getsy running the Zips’ offense, Kent State won’t be able to convert on inexperience-ridden mistakes like it did against Bowling Green quarterback Freddy Barnes.

“They’ve got some really nice looking playmakers,” Martin said. “(Their) wide receivers, runningback, and obviously their quarterback has been a good player here for the past year. (He) does a nice job of managing their offense. What we’d like to do is cause some confusion.”

Getsy took over for Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman as this week’s MAC East Offensive Player of the Week after completing 14 passes in 20 attempts, totaling 173 yards for three touchdowns in the Zips’ 33-13 win over North Texas.

Flashes’ safety Andre Kirkland earned MAC East Defensive Player of the Week. Kirkland had 14 tackles, including two sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

“Andre is really playing some great football, and has been all year,” Martin said. “He’s been playing very fast, playing with a lot of confidence. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s seeing things a lot faster. He’s really anticipating throws and getting his hands on the ball.”

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].