September 29, 2008

Season hangs on rivalry game

Two years ago Kent State defeated Akron, 37-15, to win the Wagon Wheel-the prized possession given to the winner of the annual rivalry game-for just the second time in over a decade.

The Golden Flashes didn't keep the Wagon Wheel long as the Zips reclaimed the trophy last season with a 27-20 win at the Akron Rubber Bowl.

Saturday at noon, the teams will compete for the Wagon Wheel for the 40th time, but for the Golden Flashes more is at stake than neighborhood bragging rights.

After starting the season 1-3, the Golden Flashes need a win to create some momentum as they start the portion of their schedule against Mid-American Conference East Division foes.

"I think any time you win a rivalry game it can definitely get things going," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin. "That's all we need, we need one good game to get us started."

Taking back the Wagon Wheel means the Golden Flashes also move to 1-0 within the East Division and have the chance for a rematch with Ball State, who defeated Kent State last Saturday, 41-20. The Cardinals look to be the favorites to represent the West in the MAC Championship game.

"It's like I told our guys after the game Saturday, we got beat by a really good Ball State football team," Martin said. "If you want a chance to maybe play them again then you got to run the table from here on out."

Running the table starts with a win against an Akron team that has played very well despite its 2-3 record. The Zips lost at Wisconsin, 38-17, to start the season then won on the road at Syracuse, 42-28. They opened the conference schedule with a 41-24 loss to Ball State then beat Army, 22-3. Last weekend they dropped a close game to Cincinnati, 17-15.

In the loss to Cincinnati, the Zips had an extra point blocked and failed on a two-point conversion attempt later in the game.

Adding to Kent State's woes is the fact the team will be without a handful of starters. Junior running back Eugene Jarvis is expected to miss his third straight game with an ankle injury; starting tight end Jameson Konz is out for the season with torn ligaments in his ankle and starting linebackers Cedrick Maxwell and Cobrani Mixon were both injured in Saturday's loss at Ball State and will be out several weeks.

If the Flashes somehow find a way to beat Akron, they'll have some momentum heading into the most important stretch of their schedule. But, they can't afford to look ahead.

"You have to play one at a time," Martin said. "They're all MAC championship games each week when you get into this deal now. We're excited about this Saturday."

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