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November 4, 2012

Kent State remains MAC perfect, topples rival Akron

Follow KentStateReport.com on Twitter | Givler | Birmingham

Kent State has had, up to this point, a near dream season, where each and every thing that could go wrong has gone right, and every ball that's bounced has bounced in the direction of the navy blue and gold. Today, as coach Darrell Hazell and his 7-1 Golden Flashes took to the fieldturf at Dix Stadium, the ball bounced - at least initially - a decidedly different way. Fortunately for the 18,265 fans in attendance, this Kent State team is not one that allows itself to be knocked off course by much, even a two touchdown first quarter deficit.

That's exactly what they faced today against the 1-8 Zips, who shocked the Kent State faithful with a pair of clock-chewing, eye-opening touchdown drives in the opening stanza; fueled by Dalton Williams and Jerrod Dillard, who hooked up on both of the Zips' touchdowns, from 13 and 21 yards out respectively. It was a first quarter that saw the reliable Kent State offense held to only 40 yards and two first downs.

The second quarter came just in time for Trayion Durham and the Kent State offense. The Golden Flashes went to the ground and pound approach, running Durham and his speedy counterpart Dri Archer on three consecutive carries. A Chris Humphrey 14-yard catch brought Kent State to the Akron 45-yard line and Kent State was in Zips' territory for the first time in the game. It didn't take long for them to convert that first chance into six points. On the next play, Archer gashed the Akron defense for 44-yards off left tackle, down to the 1-yard line. Durham finished the series on the next play and the Golden Flashes' deficit was cut in half to 14-7.

Akron, however, did not receive the memo that they were supposed to lay down and play dead for the bowl-bound Golden Flashes. Starting from their own six, Akron relied on the arm of Williams and the legs of 6-foot sophomore Jawon Chisolm to quickly escape the shadow of their goalposts. Chisolm picked up 15 yards on a key third-and-four reception and six plays later silenced the slowly awakening Kent State crowd with a 50-yard touchdown burst up the middle of the Golden Flashes defense, just like that it was 21-7 Zips with 7:20 to play in the first half.

As they have all year, Kent State came roaring back. A short kick-off gave the Flashes the ball at their own 40, and they went right back to work. Durham for eight, Durham for nine moved Hazell's troops into Akron territory. Senior quarterback Spencer Keith hit Kyle Payton for six more yards on first down, followed by Keith's own 11-yard carry to the Zips' 26-yard line. Two plays later Keith hit Archer for 20 yards, moving the ball to the Akron 4-yard line. On first-and-goal, Keith optioned left and took it in himself for the score making it 21-14 Akron. A last second, 32-yard field goal from the Zips' Robert Stein ended the first half at 24-14 in the favor of the Rubber City 'Roos.

As the second half got underway, Kent State seemed to come out a totally different team, and the majority of the adjustments that needed to be made - on the defense that allowed 24 first half points - were made.

"We stepped back (at halftime). Took a breather," defensive end Jake Dooley said. "We took it on ourselves and said they can't score on us in the second half."

With the first steps towards adjustment completed - stopping the Akron offense without points on their opening drive of the half - the Golden Flashes offense went right back to work to change momentum in Kent State's favor. From their own six, Keith led his offense on a 10-play, 94 yard drive in just over four minutes to take make it a three point game with 8 minutes to play in the third quarter. Durham capped that drive with his second score of the game, a six-yard score on 4th and-1 pitch, galloping into the endzone untouched. If the turning of the tide was not evident at that point, the next few moments showed some cracks in the Zips' foundation.

Following the Durham score, Akron fumbled - but recovered - the ensuing kickoff. After a 19-yard completion from Williams to Dee Frieson, Chisolm put the ball of the turf and this time the nation's best team at forcing turnovers was in the right spot, as Luke Batton recovered at the Akron 41-yard line.

After Keith completed his 13th pass of the day (on 14 attempts) and Durham picked up a first down, Kent State found itself at the Akron 30-yard line. Durham took a pitch from Keith and headed towards the right sideline before flipping it to Archer who was running a reverse; Archer took the pitch from Durham and went thirty untouched yards for the touchdown - his 16th of the season - and Kent State's first lead of the game, 28-24.

Kent State's defense went into full stubborn mode form that point on, keeping Akron off the board the rest of the way. Durham added his third touchdown of the day late in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 35-24 and despite the unexpected first punch from the Zips, Hazell improved to 2-0 against the crosstown rivals.

"All of these wins are good," said Hazell postgame. "This is special obviously when you play a crosstown rivalry. But they are all good."

Durham finished with 107 yards on 24 carries to go along with his three touchdowns. He's amassed 10 touchdowns over his last six games, and now has 11 on the season; and has 100-plus yards in each of Kent State's last three games. Archer finished with 126 yards on 11 carries, including three carries of over 20 yards en route to 261 yards on the ground for Kent State.

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