#153 University of Akron Zipsvs.#154 Kent State University Golden Flashes
Written by Matt Severance
When/Where: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Dix Stadium, Kent, Ohio
Spread: Akron -7; total: 54.5
You have to love small-school rivalries! Akron and Kent State open Mid-American Conference play on Saturday in a rivalry that is also known as the Wagon Wheel Challenge. I can honestly say I didn’t know that and I went to a MAC school. Check it out on ESPN3.
Akron (2-2) comes off a 45-38 loss to Appalachian State. The teams combined for 1,073 yards of total offense and 60 first downs. A Mykel Traylor-Bennett 1-yard run for Akron cut it to 45-38 with 5:55 left. The Zips had a final drive to tie it, but turned it over on downs. Thomas Woodson had 353 yards passing and three scores for Akron. It his two first-quarter interceptions, plus by a pair of sacks on Akron’s last possession of the game, that helped lead to the Zips’ defeat. The Zips allowed 587 yards of total offense to the Mountaineers, including 257 yards and two touchdowns to Appalachian State tailback Jalin Moore. He became the first tailback to gain more than 200 yards against Akron since Garrett Wolfe from Northern Illinois had 270 on Akron in 2005. Sophomore RB Van Edwards ran for 89 yards and TD on seven carries for Akron. Junior receiver JoJo Natson had 10 catches for 87 yards. Fellow junior WR Jerome Lane finished with 134 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions. It was the fourth 100-yard receiving game of his career and third this season.
In this week’s national rankings, Akron is No. 1 in red zone offense (1.000), No. 4 in blocked punts (2), No. 6 in defensive touchdowns (2), No. 13 in passing efficiency (169.94), No. 5 in tackles for loss (9.3), No. 19 in passing offense (323.3), No. 21 in punt returns (14.14), and No. 31 in scoring offense (40.0). Woodson is No. 5 in passing touchdowns (13).
Kent State (1-3) got a nice big check to visit Alabama last week and lose 48-0 as 44-point underdogs. Tide coach Nick Saban played collegiately at Kent State and got his coaching career started there as a graduate assistant. Alabama dominated the first half, outgaining Kent State 352-53 and amassing a 41-0 lead. The Golden Flashes managed just 13 passing yards in the first three quarters before finally driving in the fourth. Backup quarterback George Bollas was initially given a touchdown on a fourth-quarter run toward the goal line, but was ruled down at the 1 after a review. Bollas was in because starting QB Mylik Mitchell left in the closing minutes of the first half due to injury.
“George played a lot of football for us last year,” said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. “He came in and did some good things. We’ll see how (Mitchell) goes this week, but we’ll have to get ready to start (Bollas) this week.” Senior Colin Reardon, who played quarterback in his first three seasons before moving to wide receiver, finished the game at QB. Haynes said Reardon will likely practice at quarterback this week with Mitchell’s status unknown. Akron’s Week 1 starter Justin Agner missed his third consecutive game after suffering an injury in the season opener. Since the wooden Wagon Wheel trophy has been at stake (dating to 1946), Kent State holds a 23-21-1 edge against Akron.
Last season, Akron took back the Wagon Wheel with a 20-0 win over Kent State. The shutout was the Zips’ first over the Golden Flashes since 1985 and first over any team since 1992. Woodson went 11-of-19 for 140 yards and a touchdown. KSU had just 10 yards rushing. The Zips are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.