Kent State beats Akron for first time since 2014 behind Matthews’ career day

The Flashes celebrate and raise the Wagon Wheel after a 26-3 win against the Zips in Akron.

True freshman running back Joachim Bangda went down with an undisclosed injury after a six yard carry on the third play from scrimmage.

Enter senior running back Will Matthews.

Matthews came into the game with no carries, spending the first five games recovering from a torn lateral meniscus. He left with a career-high in carries and yards. He finished with 25 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown. It was the first time that a Kent State running back finished with over 100 yards against Akron since Dri Archer in 2012.

“I knew coming into the game that I was going to play a little bit, and unfortunately, Joachim went down so I just had to step up,” Matthews said. “I just went out and played the game. It wasn’t a superhuman effort.”

The Flashes won 26-3, securing their first win against Akron since 2014. The Flashes improve to 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference for the first time since 2012.

“It’s a lot of work,” Matthews said. “All the games that we’ve lost, and everything that we’ve been through. It’s starting to pay off. We just need to keep our foot on the pedal.”

Junior quarterback Dustin Crum connected with sophomore receiver Isaiah McKoy for a 49-yard touchdown with 13:29 left in the first quarter. It was only the fifth play from scrimmage.

“We got the look that we wanted,” coach Sean Lewis said. “They executed and it was a nice pitch and catch.”

Crum went 16-for-21 for 149 yards and a touchdown. He extended his streak to 153 passes without an interception.

Sophomore kicker Matthew Trickett added a career-high four field goals, as three second half drives by the Flashes stalled near the Akron 30-yard line. He added nine of his 12 points in the second half.

The Kent State defense held Akron to 297 total yards, including just 95 rushing yards. The Zips leading running back, freshman Michiah Burton had five carries for 21 yards. 

The Akron offense had several promising drives end without scores. They finished 1-for-3 in the red zone, including a sack on 4th-and-goal sack from junior linebacker Kesean Gamble that kept the score 17-3 Kent State in the third quarter.

Gamble finished with a career-high two sacks. 

“I tore my labrum in spring [foot]ball, and the coaching staff worked with me through everything,” Gamble said. “Honestly, to get the [wagon] wheel back it means everything.”

Junior quarterback Kato Nelson came in with a shoulder injury. He finished with 17-for-28 for 202 passing yards and 14 carries for 64 yards. He carved the Kent State defense for six carries and 40 yards in the first half, mostly on scrambles through the middle of the defense. 

“We realized he wasn’t really trying to get outside as much,” Gamble said. “We went into halftime and coach Kaufman, coach Coniglio and coach Ferrell told us (to force him outside).”

The Flashes used a portion of each week in preparation for this week’s matchup. They were heartbroken after last season’s 24-23 overtime loss. After today’s win, the feeling was pure excitement. Senior defensive back Jamal Parker sprinted towards the end zone to secure the Wagon Wheel as time expired.

“The Wagon Wheel is coming back home,” Lewis said. “I can’t wait to paint that wheel the right color.”

Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected]