AKRON, Ohio – When the Kent State football bus made the 14-mile trip home Saturday night, it did so with a souvenir after the Golden Flashes defeated Akron 26-3 to take home the Wagon Wheel for the first time since 2014.
Kent State (3-3, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) didn’t waste any time getting started as quarterback Dustin Crum hit Isaiah McKoy over the middle for a 50-yard touchdown just 91 seconds into the game.
“It basically worked out the way we drew it up,” Crum said. “It doesn’t always go like that but this time it did. The concept opened it up and gave us a one-on-one matchup and Isaiah took advantage of it and got open for me.”
The Golden Flashes bookended the first half with touchdowns to take a 17-3 lead into the half with an 11-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a five-yard TD run by Will Matthews with 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“It was important to be able to go out and do it before halftime and have some momentum,” Matthews said. “Coach believed in me and called my number. The offensive line blocked and we made it happen.”
The drive was set up by a defensive stop by Kent State in its own territory that led to an Akron punt. The performance by the defense, special teams and offense in that sequence changed the landscape of the game.
“I really think it’s a microcosm of the game as a whole,” Kent State coach Sean Lewis said. “All three phases playing together where the defense was bend but don’t break, special teams does their job, the (offense) does a great job executing, you go down the field and you score, it really changes the course of the game.”
With Akron threatening in the third quarter, the Golden Flashes defense came up with a fourth-down stop at its own 2 with 5:50 left in the quarter to keep the Zips from scoring. Kent State then went on a 16-play, 65-yard drive that chewed up 7:07 and ended with a 42-yard field goal by Matthew Trickett. Then Akron quarterback Kato Nelson fumbled on next play, leading to a 45-yard Trickett field goal.
The St. Ignatius graduate later added a 43-yarder to tie his career high with four field goals.
“For me, I just have to remember to have fun with it,” Trickett said. “There is only a limited amount of time you get to play football. Just coming out here and having fun and remembering it’s just a game is what gets my nerves down.”
Crum, the Midview graduate, threw for 149 yards on 16-or-21 passing and ran for 82 yards on 14 carries, while Matthews led all players with 126 yards rushing on 25 carries. The Kent State defense had three sacks, led by Kesean Gamble’s two.
For Akron (0-6, 0-2 MAC), Kato Nelson completed 17 of 28 passes for 202 yards and ran for 64 yards.
Both teams continue MAC play next Saturday as Kent State travels to Ohio for a noon start and Akron hosts Buffalo at 3:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Golden Flashes have some work to do with the Wagon Wheel.
“Our wheel is coming home,” Lewis said. “I can’t wait to paint that wheel the right colors.”
Ryan Isley is a freelancer from Akron.