KENT: The University of Akron’s 35-24 loss to Kent State will have fans second-guessing Zips coach Terry Bowden over and over for the next week.
On a couple of occasions, Bowden had the opportunity to prolong drives by converting short fourth-down chances, but he elected to punt the ball and play for field position.
The second one came at the beginning of the third quarter with the Zips leading 24-14. They had a fourth-and-1 on the Flashes’ 43, and Bowden made the choice to kick it based on what happened to the team last week in the Zips’ loss to Central Michigan. It proved to be the first in a series of pivotal moments.
“I wanted them to drive the field. I wasn’t going to put our defense in that situation right now,” he said. “And they drove it 96 yards for a TD, and that’s where they answered that bell.”
Kent State running back Trayion Durham (24 rushes, 107 yards, three touchdowns) scored on a fourth-and-1 play from the Zips’ 6-yard line. That cut the UA lead to 24-21 after the extra point. It provided Kent State momentum, and on UA’s next series, Flashes defensive end Roosevelt Nix forced Zips running back Jawon Chisholm (16 rushes, 115 yards, one touchdown) to fumble the ball at the Akron 37-yard line. Kent State recovered and had a short field.
Three plays later, Kent State’s Dri Archer (11 rushes, 126 yards and one touchdown) ran 30 yards virtually untouched for the go-ahead score as KSU took a 28-24 lead.
Zips fans won’t be the only ones thinking about that series of events.
“You don’t know how often you second-guess yourself when you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Bowden said.
The Zips tried to minimize Archer’s influence in the kicking game, and he didn’t break loose in that aspect. But in doing so, UA ceded field position and allowed the Flashes to have an average starting field position of their own 33-yard line.
But he knew that there was no way to shut Archer down.
“I thought [Archer] kept them in the game,” he said.
Archer impressed his coach, Darrell Hazell, also.
“He had a big play earlier in the game and then he hit the reverse which kind of ignited the sideline for us,” Hazell said. “He’s just a good player. You never know what he’s going to give you each time he touches the ball.”
Archer has scored 16 touchdowns this season, the most since Kent State’s Eugene Baker had 18 in 1997 and the third most in a season.
The Flashes won the coveted Wagon Wheel for the third consecutive year. Losing it brought back a memory from when Bowden served as an assistant at UA.
“When you see it walk off like that, it means a little bit more to you,” Bowden said. “The last time I was here, Glen Mason was in his first year as head coach [at KSU] and we walked off with it in ‘86, but it hurts a lot more now.”
Newly found respect
Kent State senior defensive end Jake Dooley has watched the Flashes go from doormat to first place since the arrival of Hazell. The team is getting a lot of recognition around campus even from — gasp! — professors.
“It’s crazy. A lot [of credit] goes to coach Hazell,” he said. “It’s amazing what we came into and what we’re leaving with. We have to keep it going. We have one goal still.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.