Kennedy leads Zips in wild finish

“Dennis Kennedy carried the Zips to victory Saturday afternoon against Eastern Michigan as UA beat the Eagles 42-35. Kennedy ran for a career high 277 yards, just one week after establishing a previous career high of 182 yards. He also scored three touchdowns, the most important was the game winner with 14 seconds left to put the Zips up for good.”

Dennis Kennedy carried the Zips to victory Saturday afternoon against Eastern Michigan as UA beat the Eagles 42-35.

Kennedy ran for a career high 277 yards, just one week after establishing a previous career high of 182 yards. He also scored three touchdowns, the most important was the game winner with 14 seconds left to put the Zips up for good.

The Zips (4-4, 2-2 MAC) dominated most of the game against the Eagles (2-6, 1-3 MAC) but gave up a double digit lead late in the game. With the win the Zips are in sole possession of first place in the MAC East.

Eastern Michigan scored 14 points in 2 minutes late in a wild fourth quarter including a Josh Leduc 6-yard touchdown reception to put EMU up 35-34 with 3:49 left to go.

I keep telling the guys to just believe, Kennedy said. There was a lot of time left and we came through.

The Zips drove to the Eastern Michigan 9-yard line on the ensuing possession and attempted a 26-yard field goal with 39 seconds left.

The Eagles were able to get a hand on the ball to block the kick, but it bounced back to holder Andy Hildreth who grabbed the ball and ran to the 4-yard line for a first down.

I just saw the ball, it came right back to me, Hildreth said. I have no idea what was going through my head. I just caught it and ran.

Hildreth, the backup punter, said the Zips do not typically practice those kinds of situations.

We practice bad snaps but never anything like that, he said.

My heart dropped when I heard that thump, Kennedy said. I had no idea that he had the ball. He was two or three yards down the field before I realized what was going on.

Two plays later, Kennedy punched in the game winning touchdown run to put the Zips up for good.

It was eleven as one out there today, Kennedy said. The O-line blocked and the receivers blocked on the edge and I just ran the ball.

I don’t know what else you can say other than it’s the MAC, head coach J.D. Brookhart said. We’re all very similar football teams and it comes down to making plays.

Andre Jones also had a big game for the Zips. Jones carried the ball for the first time in his career and ended the game with three carries for 50 yards and five receptions for a career high 114 yards. Jones now leads the MAC with 7 touchdowns on the season.

We have to finish strong and stay focused, Jones said. We have two bye weeks that are much needed. We have a couple players that have some bumps and bruises. We’re not worried about first place or last place, we’re just worried about winning this next game.

It was an important, pivotal game for us, Brookhart said. We’re in a situation where we’re off for 18 days. We want to go into this on a positive note and approach the last part of our schedule as a second season.

The road was UA’s fourth on the season, the first time they’ve accomplished the feat since joining Division I-A in 1987.

The Zips have two bye weeks before returning to action Nov. 5 as they will host Toledo in the second-to-last game at the Rubber Bowl.