But if you happen to be a member

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

But if you happen to be a member of the Kent State football fraternity, right now your heart's telling you that difference feels more like one million.

After all, how many times do the Golden Flashes get a chance to make something out of their own season while spoiling the promising campaign of the neighbor they wholeheartedly despise in the process?

Yes indeed, 3-8 would never have tasted so sweet.

"There's no doubt a loss to us would put a damper on their season," said coach Dean Pees, whose Flashes (2-8, 2-5 Mid-American Conference) will conclude the 1999 campaign by taking part in the annual backyard bash with Akron (6-4, 4-3) Saturday at the Rubber Bowl. "But I prefer to look more at what a win would do for us than what a loss would do for them."

Not all Flashes fans would agree with Pees in that regard.

Nevertheless, what exactly would a third victory in '99 do for Kent's program?

"Even though it would only be three wins, it's a big three," said Pees. "It'd be only the second time this decade that Kent has won three games, and that year (1997) they won the only three games they were competitive in. This year we've had three other games that we could've won.

"Plus a win on Saturday would certainly give everyone in our program a good feeling heading into the offseason."

Simply playing heavily-favored Akron tough won't foster any pleasant emotions, because all that matters to anyone involved in this grudge match is who wins and loses.

And beating Akron won't be easy.

The '99 edition of the Zips is easily the best one Lee Owens has produced in his five years at the helm. Three weeks ago Akron was in the thick of the MAC East Division title hunt before losing back-to-back games to West Division champion Western Michigan and East Division runnerup Miami.

"They're 6-4, and there's a reason," said Pees. "They've been in every game they lost except for Penn State."

Offensively the Zips can physically pound foes behind a big and experienced offensive line or they can beat 'em through the air with junior quarterback Butchie Washington, who has added much-needed versatility to the team's attack.

Overall Akron is churning out nearly 360 yards and 28 points per contest.

"They have a good offensive team," said Pees. "They move well and are big up front, and everything they run is play action."

The Zips defense has been vulnerable at times, as they're actually surrendering slightly more yards per outing than Kent (386.4-384.9). However, the unit has produced its share of big plays by forcing 16 turnovers and sacking the opposing quarterback 17 times.

"They've got a lot more speed on defense than they've had in the past," said Pees. "(Senior linebacker George Cameron) is an active guy in the middle."

The Zips, like the Flashes, are also approaching a minor victory milestone. They haven't won seven games since the 1992 campaign, which adds a little extra incentive.

"They're playing for seven wins, and that's big for them," said Pees. "Another win would be big for us. Plus anytime you play your rival, you've gotta live with whatever happens for the next year. That's always a factor.

"That's why I like playing this game at the end of the season. No matter what, there's always something on the line."

Notes

Wagon Wheel Up For Grabs: Akron has kept the coveted Wagon Wheel Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Zips-Flashes game since 1946, in its clutches for the past two years. Akron leads the series 21-18-2, and is 17-7-2 at home against Kent.

Rozier To Return: Flashes sophomore tailback DeMarlo Rozier, who has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury, is expected to play on Saturday. He rushed for a career-high 119 yards against the Zips a year ago.

"Rozier's gotta be ready for Akron," said Pees. "Everybody's gotta be ready for Akron."

Davis' Ups And Downs: The last time the two teams met in Akron, Kent senior quarterback Jose Davis threw for 419 yards in a 45-35 loss. Last year he threw for 61 yards in the Flashes' 45-16 defeat, and was yanked from the game in the second half after Akron's Andre McCray returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown.

"Last year's game was not a thing to remember," said Davis, who currently ranks fourth in the MAC in total offense (199.8 yards per game).

A Potential Payne: Freshman tailback Brandon Payne leads the Zips in rushing and leads the MAC in punt returns (12.5 yards per return). He's also scored 11 touchdowns, third-best in the conference.

Mr. Automatic: Pees is pushing Kent sophomore kicker Dave Pavich for All-MAC honors. Pavich has made 20-of-20 extra points and 13-of-16 field goals, with two of those misses coming from over 50 yards.

"He's automatic," said Pees. "Into the wind, with the wind, it doesn't matter."

Road Woes: In the Flashes' last three road games, they've been outscored 128-17. "We're treating this one like a home game," said Pees. "We're doing everything preparation-wise and time-wise just like we would if we were playing at home."

Latest Line: Akron is a 16-point favorite according to oddsmakers.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.