KENT, OHIO – Fourth-year junior RB Mykel Traylor Bennett scored two touchdowns, the second off a direct snap with just 20 seconds remaining in regulation, to give the Akron Zips a 31-27 come-from-behind win over the Kent State Golden Flashes Saturday afternoon before a homecoming crowd of 20,167 at Dix Stadium.
Akron (3-2, 1-0 MAC) rebounded from its home loss last week to Appalachian State as the Zips defeated arch rival in Kent for the first time since 2008. UA also won a MAC opening game on the road since 2004, and retained the Wagon Wheel trophy for the second consecutive year.
Akron's late offensive efficiency was a welcome site for UA head coach Terry Bowden. “We have not had a good one-minute offense the past few seasons.” he noted.
Kent State (1-4, 0-1) fell in its MAC opener for . . .
“Disappointing, very disappointing losing like that. ” KSU head man Paul Haynes said. “However, I am super proud in the way they (the team) fought.”
Kent State took the lead 27-24 with just 1:02 remaining as junior Nick Holley, who moved over to quarterback for the injury-plagued Flashes, engineered a 16-play, 97-yard scoring drive. Holley found RB Justin Rankin with a pass on fourth down from the two-yard line to finish the trip.
On the next play, Traylor-Bennett scored his second touchdown of the game off the direct snap to give UA the lead. The defense held KSU on the final play to get the victory.
When the season started, few people could have guessed the 2016 Wagon Wheel tilt would be a game of backup quarterbacks.
KSU lost two starters in the first four games as freshman Justin Agner hurt his knee in the season opening loss at Penn State Fellow frosh Mylik Mitchell broke his wrist last Saturday in the loss at top-ranked Alabama.
The decision to move Nate Holley, the brother of defensive standout Nick Holley, into the quarterback spot was made on the plane coming back from Alabama, Haynes said. Nate played quarterback at Whitmer High in Toledo.
Holly rose to the occasion, hitting 19-of-35 passes for 285 yards and a two touchdowns. He also ran for 117 yards and a score. He is the first KSU quarterback to accomplish that feat since Julian Edelman (now with the New England Patriots) in 2008.
Chapman, who played three games last season, and went to high school in Kent at Roosevelt High School, got the starting nod.
After fits and starts early, Chapman found his rhythm and completed 11-of-28 passes for 237 yards and a pair of scores. A majority of those yards came in the second half. He also rushed for 39 yards.
The Zips scored on the opening drive of the game, Chapman and the offense moved the ball from their own 36 to the KSU 29, where the drive stalled. Sophomore PK Tom O’ Leary came on and made a 46-yard field goal, the longest of his career, for a 3-0 lead.
The Flashes took their first lead of the game as Nick Holley, using the option play and a short passing attack, put together a six-play, 47-yard drive, It ended with a quarterback draw of 13-yards for the touchdown and a 7-3 advantage.
At the start of the second quarter, UA regained the lead 10-7 on a 62-yard nine-play drive that ended with Traylor-Bennett’s first touchdown off the direct snap. He went 13 yards for the score.
The Flashes Jerrell Foster intercepted a Chapman pass on the next possession and returned it 32 yards to the Zips five yard line. It was one of two picks for Foster and one of three turnovers forced by the KSU defense.
Nate Holley and the offense converted the turnover into a touchdown as he found Earnest Calhoun in the left side of the end zone from 18 yards out and KSU grabbed a 17-10 lead.
Kent State could have extended the lead just before halftime, but Hynes’ 30-yard field goal attempt was wide right. It was the first of three big plays that would haunt the home team as the game progressed.
The third quarter began as a battle of punts and field position until the Zips defense came up with a big play of its own as UA stopped the Flashes on a fourth down from the Akron 31.
Using their running game and a shorter passing game, the Zips moved 68-yards in just seven plays. Chapman found sophomore RB Van Edwards, who took a short pass over the middle and went 37 yards for a touchdown to tie the score 17-17.
The Flashes creeped closer on their drive after the touchdown as Nate Holley used a big 37-yard pass play to Rankin to get the ball to the UA 18. When they could not move any farther, Hynes came on for his second field goal, a 41-yarder, to make the score 24-20.
The defenses took over until the Flashes got the ball with 5:47 remaining after punter Nick Gasser pinned them back at their own three-yard line.
On the go-ahead drive, Nick Holley converted three third down situations which included a second big completion to Rankin, this one for 21 yards. The freshman would have the best day of his young career as he caught 10 passes for 181 yards and the touchdown to make the score 27-24.
Rather than kicking deep, Hynes squibbed his kick, which was returned by WR Tyrell Goodman to the UA 43.
Chapman completed an 11-yard pass to Wolf at the right sideline before hitting Natson with the biggest play of the game and led to the winning touchdown.
Statistically, KSU had its best game offensively with 423 total yards. The defense came up with three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble recovery). However, the three missed opportunities proved to be costly.
Both teams are back in action next Saturday. KSU travels to Buffalo to face the Bulls who finished their non-conference schedule with a loss at Boston College. UA returns home to InfoCision Stadium for homecoming against Miami, who lost their MAC opener at home against Ohio 17-3.