The set-up couldn't be more perfect.
Akron, at 5-6 and coming off a decisive win over UMass, needed one win to gain bowl eligibility for the first time in eight years. Their opponent? 1-9 Kent State, who hadn't won a game in over a month. Seems to good to be true, right?
Colin Reardon's five-yard pass to Chris Humphrey with a minute remaining sealed the 27-24 win and the Wagon Wheel for Kent State. Reardon had a nice game throwing for almost 300 yards and two touchdowns. The Flashes' rushing game, ranked nearly last in the country in yards per game, put up 112 yards with most of them coming from Nick Holley.
Kent State's offense, ranked nearly last in the country in points per game, put up over twenty points for just the second time this year. Akron's normally stout defense, ranked near the top third in the nation and at the top of the MAC, completely imploded.
Kyle Pohl capped his season in fitting fashion, posting a 17-42, 191-yard performance with no touchdowns and two interceptions. One interception came in the red zone which killed a nice drive, and the other came on the first play of Akron's last drive with a minute to play.
Pohl's season totals - 2,000 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions - mirror Akron's mediocre season. Four of his nine touchdowns came in the first game against Howard; meaning he threw just five touchdowns over the remaining nine games he played.
The kicking game didn't help matters either, with Robert Stein missing a 25-yard field goal in the middle of the third quarter. This was obviously the difference in the end, and it was something that Akron couldn't afford in a must-win game.
Jawon Chisholm was the lone bright spot for Akron, rushing nineteen times for 184 yards and two scores. Chisholm had a great career as a Zip and is one of the best running backs in program history. For so much that went wrong today, it was good to see Chisholm end his career on such a high note.
For Kent State, this was a nice win in an otherwise forgettable season. Kent State fans would probably say that they would take a 1-11 season if that win was against Akron, so it's some consolation that one of the Flashes' two wins came against the Zips.
For Akron, it's yet another losing season and another December sitting at home. This is the ninth straight losing season for the program, and it's starting to take its toll. While five win seasons are better than one win seasons, it doesn't appear that much progress is happening.
Next year could be a make or break year for the program. Either Akron takes the next step with a solid group of returnees, or becomes the Same Old Zips and sputters at the end of the season.
What is so frustrating about this season was how promising the start was: Akron started the season 4-2 with a road win over Pitt. Then the Zips went 1-5 over the next six games, ending any hope for a bowl game. There is some reason for hope with each new season, but it's getting harder and harder to believe that Akron will ever turn this around.