Two teams entered seemingly even on paper, but when the time expired and Akron took home the Wagon Wheel for the first time in four seasons, it was clear that Kent State (2-8 ,1-5 MAC) and the Zips (3-7, 2-4 MAC) are headed in very different directions.
Akron downed Kent State 16-7 Saturday in a defensive struggle, that before the game seemed it would have played right into the style the Golden Flashes preferred. Running was the name of the game as both defenses shut down the opposing quarterback, making the units one-dimensional. But Akron's swarming secondary, which managed to pick off Kent State freshman quarterback Colin Reardon three times.
The Zips struck early, driving 78-yards down the field on four plays to score just 1:08 into the game. But after that initial burst of high-octane offense, the teams found themselves locked into a struggle.
The remainder of the first quarter saw Akron force Golden Flashes thunder and lightening duo of Trayion Durham and Dri Archer each cough the ball up once, but the Zips were unable to capitalize on the turnovers and punted twice in the first quarter. Durham pounded the ball into the end zone mid-way through the second quarter to cap off a brutal 11-play drive and notch the game up at 7-7, but Kent State's offense never saw a hint of the endzone again.
The next six Golden Flashes drives went for 22-, 17-, 24-, 38-, 2- and 50-yards, with the last three all ending in crucial interceptions (all in the fourth quarter) by Johnny Robinson, Malachi Freeman and Martel Durant.
With Akron's defense tormenting the struggling Kent offense, Jawon Chisholm chiseled away at Kent's defense. For the second straight week he tallied more than 150-yards on the ground, racking up 151 yards on 27 carries in the win. With him moving the ball down the field (making up for Kyle Pohl frustrating afternoon that saw him throw for just 98 yards while completing less than 50 percent of his passes) Akron was able to notch three field goals, including one with 30 seconds left in the first half, to win the game.
The win tripled Akron's victory total from a season ago, and matched the combined victories from the past three seasons. It was a signal that the scrappy team that took Michigan to the wire and gave NIU fits was the real Zips squad, not the one that got blown out at home by Ohio. It marked a flip of the page to a new chapter in Akron Football, that certainly is going to take on a more cheery tone in the next few years after years of dark and scary tales.
For Kent State it signaled that this season is the beginning of what will likely be a long drawn out rebuilding process under first-year head coach Paul Haynes. Archer, and defensive studs Roosevelt Nix and Luke Wollet are just a handful of the teams key players that will be gone after this season.