Zips beat Kent State to claim the Wagon Wheel

By Joshua Glaze, [email protected]

The University of Akron football team overcame the Kent State Golden Flashes in a thrilling win in the Wagon Wheel Challenge on Saturday by a score of 31-27.

Despite going 3-12 on third-down, being outgained 378-423 in total yards, and losing the turnover battle 0-3, the Zips were able to prevail.

The Zips’ win improves their record to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play, while Kent State falls to 1-4.

Starting for the injured Thomas Woodson, backup quarterback Tra’von Chapman did not post the most impressive numbers this week. He threw for 237 yards and completed just 11 of 28 passes with two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions, but his gritty play was enough to lead the Zips to victory.

Akron’s rushing attack came from several players. Mykel Traylor-Bennett punched in two touchdowns and Van Edwards Jr. gained 44 yards on eight carries. Edwards Jr. was outstanding with 227 all-purpose yards and one touchdown.

Kwadarrius Smith led the Zips with 75 receiving yards, hauling in two passes for an average of 37.5 yards-per-catch. Austin Wolf was able to contribute as well with three catches for 51 yards and one touchdown.

Ulysees Gilbert led Akron on defense, accounting for 16 tackles with three being for a loss, including one sack. Gilbert received MAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his dominant play on Saturday.

Kent State’s Nick Holley put on a show with a great performance, throwing for 285 yards and two touchdowns and also rushing for 117 yards with one touchdown.

Justin Rankin carried the receiving load for the Golden Flashes with 10 catches for 181 yards to go with one touchdown.

The Zips started off solid with a quick five-play drive with Tom O’leary capping it off with a field goal. The highlight of the drive was a 35-yard reception by Smith

Kent State was able to answer with 2:51 left in the first quarter. Nick Holley ran in for a 15-yard scamper to give the Golden Flashes a 7-3 lead.

Early in the second quarter, after forcing a three-and-out, Akron put a five-play drive together to take the lead 10-7 with Traylor-Bennett rushing for a 13-yard touchdown.

Kent managed to get a field goal on the ensuing possession. Kent’s defense then intercepted Chapman, which led to a 18-yard touchdown reception giving Kent State the lead 17-10 going into halftime.

The Zips were able to take a 24-17 lead after scoring on two consecutive possessions with Chapman finding Van Edwards for a 27-yard touchdown and Wolf for a 23-yard touchdown.

The Golden Flashes were able to put together a quick drive that led to a 41-yard field goal by Shane Hynes. Kent then put together a 16-play drive to take the lead, 27-24, with Nick Holley throwing to Justin Rankin for a touchdown with just 1:08 left. It was an exceptional play by Holley, as he ran out to his left and flipped the ball 10 yards to Rankin at the goalline.

It took the Zips 36 seconds to retake the lead, the drive being capped off by Traylor-Bennett whose three-yard run won Akron the game. The drive was propelled by a 43-yard pass from Chapman to Jojo Natson.

The Zips were able to win without starting quarterback Thomas Woodson and starting running back Warren Ball.  Top receivers Jerome Lane (one catch for 15 yards) and Jojo Natson (two catches for 48 yards) were also kept relatively quiet compared to their first four games.

Stay tuned as the Zips try to stay undefeated in conference play when they take on Miami University of Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 p.m. at InfoCision Stadium in Akron.