KENT, Ohio – Drizzling rain filtered in with cold damp air was the setting as the Akron Zips traveled a quick 25 minutes to take on in inner-state rival Kent State. It appeared early on that Kent State was feeling the emotional hangover after upsetting then-No. 15 Rutgers.
For only the second time this season, Kent State found themselves trailing by 14 points, and this was before the second quarter began.
Zips junior wide out Jerrod Dillard caught two first-quarter touchdowns, the second coming off the third offsides penalty of the quarter, which led to quarterback Dalton Williams simply letting it fly and hoping for the best.
The end result was a 21-yard toss to the end zone for the score. The two touchdown passes and their 14-point lead weren’t enough for the Zips to hold of the Flashes, losing their seventh in a row 35-24 to Kent State.
Akron’s offense was as proficient as any in the nation this afternoon during the first half, operating in the best possible manner. The Zips scored on their first four offensive drives, leaving their punter Zach Paul puntless after the first two quarters of play. “They came at us quickly,” said Kent State senior defensive end Jake Dooley, regarding Akron’s 24-point first half. “Coach said during the second half we need to settle down and do what we're coached to do.”
Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell and his staff used the allotted 20 minutes during halftime to correct the first-half mistakes.
“There was a lot said at halftime, obviously,” Hazell would explain regarding the adjustments made during the second half. “This is what championship runs are all about, and the mark of this team will be made in the next thirty minutes.”
During the second, half the Flashes would force Akron into five punts, one fumble and one turnover on downs to hold the Zips to zero points. “They made right adjustments at halftime,” Akron head coach Tommy Bowden said, adding, “and took control of the second half.”
Built on the ground game and their lighting-and-thunder combination of pint-sized Dri Archer (5’8", 175 pounds) and bruiser Trayion Durham (6’0", 250) Kent State utilized the pair to help them to their eighth victory of the season. “We just keep coming at them every play and play after play,” said Archer, adding, “we got a great offensive line and they just keep pushing those guys back.”
Over the four previous games Kent State has averaged 252.2 yards rushing, and today they totaled 261 yards on the ground. Both Archer and Durham exceeded the century mark, combining for 233 yards and four touchdowns. “You can’t stop speed,” Bowden commented about Archer, then addressing Durham by saying, “you maybe can gang up on a big guy, but you can’t stop speed.”
With the score 28-24, Akron’s closest attempt to put points on the board came midway through the fourth quarter where a would-be field goal attempt from the Kent State 30-yard line was put to rest after a dead ball foul. That forced Akron to punt from the Kent State 45 and they never threatened again.
Akron’s next drive would end on downs after running back Jawon Chisholm failed to convert to force another set of downs. Kent State would take over on downs at the Akron 35 with 3:03 left in the game and would seal the game after Durham would score the final of his three touchdowns, breaking off the left tackle with a clear angle to the corner of the end zone.
Kent State would hold the Zips scoreless in the second half, winning their third straight game over Akron for the first time since 1952.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Hazell said, then adding, “going down the stretch we will probably see a few more.” With three games left, Kent State is in first place in the East of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and proudly remains in possession of the Wagon Wheel. “It’s a special moment,” Archer said in response to holding the Wagon Wheel up after the game, adding, “we don’t like Akron at all, but it was just a good feeling.”
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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