KENT, Ohio - Leading up to Saturday's game, seniors on the Kent State football team promised to defend their rivalry trophy against Akron.
These seniors walked into InfoCision Stadium carrying the Wagon Wheel as they led the underclassmen out of the tunnel to face the Zips.
After a solid beat down of 35-3, the largest margin of victory since 1974 when Kent State beat Akron 51-14, these same seniors carried the Wagon Wheel out of InfoCision Stadium.
After his first game coaching against Akron, Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell said beating Akron, regardless of the score, was most important.
"I would have taken a one-point win," Hazell said.
The players, however, were far from settling with a slim margin. The offense scored on their first drive of the game and the defense continually shut down the Zips.
The Kent State defense held the Zips to only 223 yards of offense to the Flashes' 380 yards of total offense. In fact, junior quarterback Spencer Keith's 59-yard run was one yard longer than all of Akron's 27 attempts.
Sophomore defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix did the majority of the damage to Akron, playing in the backfield for most of the game. Despite being sick for the second week in a row, Nix finished second on the team in tackles with six and had 1.5 tackles for a loss. Nix also forced a turnover on downs when he blocked back-to-back passes from Akron's quarterback Clayton Moore from the line of scrimmage.
"Defensively, we played great," Stalker said. "We got a lot of pressure in [quarterback Clayton Moore's] face. He's probably the toughest quarterback in our conference. The secondary did a great job giving us time to get to him. Rosie's (Nix) outstanding. He seems to find out a way to be in the right place at the right time."
For the second week in a row, the offensive line provided huge holes for the running backs, who ran for a total of 265 yards. This in turn opened the field to pass for junior quarterback Spencer Keith. Freshman running back Trayion Durham ran for a career high of 107 yards rushing with two rushing touchdowns on 24 attempts.
Keith benefited from the defense protecting the run as it opened the field for some easy passes. Keith finished 11 for 16 for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
"We've been running the ball great," Keith said. "Our offensive line has been doing a great job of making holes and giving us protection in the passing game. They've been great these last three weeks. Everyone's more focused and more determined at practice."
It was the third consecutive week Keith has not thrown an interception. In the last two years, the Flashes are 8-1 when the Keith does not throw an interception. When he does throw an interception, the Flashes are 0-12.
With the win against Akron, the Flashes are still in the hunt to win the Mid-American Conference East Division. The Flashes need to win their final two games to Eastern Michigan and Temple, Ohio needs to lose both games to Bowling Green and Miami and Miami needs to lose to Western Michigan.
The Flashes game against Eastern Michigan (6-4 overall, 4-2 MAC) is set for a 2 p.m. kickoff at Dix Stadium. It is the Flashes final home game of the 2011 season.
Durham's 107 yards rushing and two touchdowns are a new career-high. He has now scored three touchdowns in the last two weeks.
Keith moved past Greg Kokal for third place in Kent State passers as Akron's game put him over 5,608 passing yards. Keith has now thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three games.
Keith's 59-yard run in the third quarter is the longest run for Kent State this season.
Akron's three points was the lowest scored in the rivalry match since 1949.
Kent State now leads the Wagon Wheel series 21-19-1 and leads this year's Wagon Wheel Cup Challenge 3.5 to 1.5.
The Flashes' defense held an opponent to under 100 yards rushing (58) for the fifth time this season.
The Kent State offense scored touchdowns on all four of its trips to the redzone.
The Kent State defense never allowed Akron into the redzone.
Kent State did not commit a penalty in the first three quarters.