A disastrous third quarter for the University of Akron meant the Wagon Wheel trophy was destined to remain at Kent State.
The Zips trailed the Golden Flashes only 9-3 at halftime, but were hit with a three-touchdown blitz in the decisive third quarter.
That allowed Kent State (4-6, 3-3) to waltz to a 35-3 victory over the Zips (1-9, 0-6) on Senior Day at InfoCision Stadium.
“It was a very competitive game at the half. Coming out for the second half, I thought we were in for a heckuva game, a four-quarter game,” UA coach Rob Ianello said. “The momentum swings of the second half, we clearly didn’t handle.
“Once they grabbed momentum, we could not get it back. Then it became too big a deficit for us to overcome.”
In that decisive third quarter, the Golden Flashes had 140 yards of offense in 16 plays, for an average of 8.7 yards per play, and scored 20 points. Meanwhile, the Zips had 68 yards in 20 plays, for an average of 3.4 yards per play.
The touchdown drives in the quarter were 44 yards in seven plays, 32 yards in three plays and 60 yards in three plays.
Freshman tailback Trayion Durham had two 1-yard touchdown runs, and quarterback Spencer Keith threw a 6-yard scoring pass to tight end Tim Erjavec.
The first Durham touchdown was the one that proved pivotal and was somewhat controversial.
On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Durham leaped over the top and was met by UA safety Devonte Morgan at the goal line. The officials ruled the ball made it over the line. Ianello challenged it, but to no avail, and the score grew to 16-3.
Besides the lopsided third quarter, another key to the outcome was that Kent State could run the ball and UA could not.
The Flashes entered the game 116th in the 120-team Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing at 90.4 per game. But KSU ran for 265 yards, its highest total since 2008. The the Zips could manage just 58 yards.
Seniors’ last game
The 13 Zips seniors honored before the game were offensive linemen Pat McCloskey, Paul Simkovich, Zac Kasparek and Jake Anderson, cornerback Manley Waller, punter Zack Campbell (Canton McKinley), safety Doug Richardson (Twinsburg), defensive linemen Dan Marcoux, James Harvey, Oren Wilson, Phil Tonga and Shane Shead, and linebacker Matt Little.
Keith has a big day
Kent State junior quarterback Keith completed 11-of-16 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
That gave him 5,608 yards for his career, which moves him into third place on the school’s all-time list. He moved past Greg Kokal, who had 5,587 yards.
Keith also had the longest run of his career in the third quarter to set up a touchdown. His 59-yard run surpassed his previous long run of 34 yards.
Freshman kicker A.J. Fox of the Zips is 6-of-6 on field goals this season, including a 42-yarder in the first quarter. …The Golden Flashes had 63 penalties in their first nine games, but did not have one Saturday until midway through the fourth quarter. They finished with four for 58 yards. … The Zips had not blocked an extra point attempt since 2008 but had two on Saturday. Wilson had the first one and the second was a team block. … Zips cornerback Anthony Holmes had 11 tackles after having 19 in the first eight games. … Junior tailback Larry Dawson (North) of KSU had a 25-yard touchdown called back in the fourth quarter on a holding penalty. … This is the first time since 1987-88 that KSU has beaten UA in consecutive years.