Kent State runs over, around and through Akron in a game which was never in doubt to retain the Wagon Wheel for another year.
The Wagon Wheel arrived in Akron on Saturday morning with an escort from the Kent State football program, and at the end of the proceedings at InfoCision Stadium this afternoon, it went back to Kent as well, as the Golden Flashes (6-5, 5-2 MAC) decimated the hosting Akron Zips (1-9, 1-6 MAC) by a final score of 38-0.
Today’s result was a truly dominant—and historic— performance for the Golden Flashes, who collected their most sacks in a game since 2017, their first shutout since 2009 and nabbed their first shutout of Akron in the Wagon Wheel rivalry since 1949 in their triumphant 38-0 victory.
The scoring started early, as Kent State turned a three-and-out into a one-yard Marquez Cooper rushing touchdown to fill out an eight-play, 87-yard drive lasting just over three minutes in to give the Flashes a 7-0 lead.
The Akron Zips put together one of their best drives of the season on the ensuing possession, marching the ball down the field from their own six-yard line all the way to the Kent State five-yard line to get into the redzone. After gaining the new set of downs, Zach Gibson found himself reeling backwards from the pressure of Nico Bolden, who collected Gibson for the sack on second-and-goal to force third-and-goal from the 12-yard line. Gibson connected with Michael Mathison on a bubble screen to get to the Kent State six-yard line for fourth down.
Oscar Rodriguez Jr., the Zips’ interim coach following the firing of Tom Arth, opted to go for the touchdown to even the score instead of calling Cory Smigel to kick the field goal and get the Zips on the board.
The fourth down play looked to be a familiar one, with Gibson targeting Konata Mumpfield on the short route open in the middle of the endzone, but in a rare mishandle, Mumpfield dropped the reception, resulting in a turnover on downs. The drop killed what had been a promising 12-play, 87-yard drive taking up over 7:19 of game clock, and let Kent State— who came in second-worst in total defense in the MAC— off the hook.
The Flashes responded with a long drive of their own to drain the clock and wear down the Akron defense with a 13-play, 90-yard over 5:35 of game time, with 10 of those plays being runs. The drive ended emphatically, with Dustin Crum calling his own number on a 10-yard rush on the read option play to put the score up to 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Akron had promising field position at their own 31-yard line after the ensuing kickoff, and started the drive off strong, with a four-yard rush by Jonzell Norrils setting up a 17-yard reception to Konata Mumpfield down the middle of the field— but Mumpfield was met by Matt Harmon, who forced a fumble. Kent State’s Montre Miller recovered the fumble, gifting Akron’s promising field position to the Flashes instead.
It would only take six plays for the Flashes to convert the turnover to points, with six-foot, 250 lb. halfback Bryan Bradford cutting a rug on a cut move and then running through multiple tackles for a 29-yard touchdown run to get the margin up to 20-0 with 10:34 to go in the first half.
The special teams unit caught Akron sleeping on the extra point attempt, running a direct snap to defensive end Zayin West in the “slot” position to run untouched for two points, putting the score at 22-0 Flashes.
Here’s the angle on DE Zayin West getting the two-point conversion on the direct snap!
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) November 20, 2021
The Zips got the ball back after the squib kick gave them the ball at their own 48, and managed to drive their way up to the Kent State 41-yard line before Gibson once again took an untimely sack on second-and-10, this time to CJ West. Gibson would gain 11 yards on third down, but it once again fourth down in no-man’s-land, with Akron choosing aggression once again. Gibson managed to gain five yards on the broken play, but wound up a yard short, giving the turnover-on-downs.
As they had for much of the game, Kent State took their time going down the field, taking nearly six minutes to chew up 66 yards in 12 plays. Dustin Crum would get his second read-option touchdown of the day to end the drive, putting Kent State up 29-0.
Akron would have another shot at points at the end of the half, trotting Cory Smigel to attempt a 46-yard field goal with three seconds remaining. Sean Lewis opted to use two timeouts to try and freeze Smigel, and it worked, as his lone field goal attempt of the day coasted to the right of the goalpost.
The second half started off with a bang, as kickoff starter/punter Jerry Fitschen executed a perfect onside kick to give the Zips possession at their own 46. But once again, Gibson took an untimely sack on first-and-10 from the Kent State 43, getting felled on the blindside by Marvin Pierre for a 12-yard loss. Akron couldn’t recover, ultimately going for it on fourth-and-17, with Gibson overthrowing Michael Mathison for Akron’s third turnover-on-downs.
It was elementary from there, as KSU’s Andrew Glass kicked three field goals to put the margin up to its final score of 38-0, and Akron would stumble through a do-or-die drive to get points on their last possession which would ultimately only run down the clock while pocketing all their remaining timeouts.
Dustin Crum didn’t need to throw the ball a lot in this one, finishing 8-of-9 for 55 yards, while rushing for 114 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. backup QB Collin Schlee saw relief duty in the second half, completing 1-of-2 passes for 11 yards and 35 yards on two carries. Marquez Cooper paced all rushers with 25 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown, while Bryan Bradford scored KSU’s other rushing touchdown on 66 yards in eight carries. Dante Cephus accounted for 36 of KSU’s 66 receiving yards.
Dean Clark led the Flashes defense with nine tackles, while AJ Mussolino (eight tackles) and Mandela Lawrence-Burke (seven tackles, .5 tackles-for-loss) also paced the table. CJ West was the most prolific pass rusher, gaining three sacks on five tackles. At least four Flashes grabbed one sack apiece, including Richie Carpenter, Nico Bolen, Brandon Coleman and Pierre Marvin.
Zach Gibson had it tough leading the Zips, finishing 14-of-21 passing for 111 yards while taking six total sacks, finishing with 10 net yards after gaining 55 on 13 carries. Jonzell Norrils took lead back duties with 16 carries for 60 yards and also had three receptions for 11 yards. Konata Mumpfield led all receivers with four receptions for 39 yards, but also dropped a potential touchdown and lost a fumble.
Andrew Behm led all tacklers with 11 on the day, while Ronald Jackson Jr. (nine tackles) and DiMarco Johnson (seven tackles) finished second and third. The Zips defense picked up three tackles-for-loss, with Julian Richardson getting lone credit on one, while four players split a half-tackle. Charles Amankwaa registered the Zips’ lone pass breakup.
Akron will finish their season against Toledo on Saturday, Nov. 27, at noon Eastern time at the Glass Bowl to end their season and try to win one more game.
Kent State, meanwhile, will play the Miami RedHawks at home in a de facto MAC East title game, as both teams are 5-2 in league play and atop the division in the final game of the regular season slate. That game will also kick off on Saturday, Nov. 27 at noon Eastern time.