Flashes football look for sixth straight win against unbeaten Rutgers
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The Kent State football team has overcome a number of obstacles and close, competitive games on their way to a 6-1 record. This weekend, the Flashes will face one of their toughest challenges of the season so far.
The Flashes hit the road to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3:30 p.m. Saturday in New Brunswick, NJ.
Kent State will look to increase their winning streak to six games against No. 15 Rutgers, a team that holds an unbeaten 7-0 record and a 4-0 record in the Big East Conference.
Coach Darrell Hazell said the Flashes have shown a lot of focus in the last few games, and he said they will need to stay focused to compete with the Scarlet Knights.
“You can tell that (Rutgers) is very well coached,” Hazell said. “They play with a lot of energy, and they execute very well on all three phases. So we have to do a good job at matching and exceeding their execution and playing with energy from the first play to the last play.”
The Flashes are also a perfect 4-0 against Mid-American Conference teams with four more conference games remaining after their game against the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers has one of the top-ranked defenses in college football, ranking third in the Football Bowl Subdivision in average points allowed with 11.3 per game.
The Scarlet Knights also have the third best rushing defense in the nation, holding teams to just more than 69 yards per game on average. Hazell said the biggest thing Kent State’s offense will need to focus on is handling the defensive pressure that the Scarlet Knights will bring.
Kent State: 105th
Kent State: 27th
Kent State: 68th
Kent State: 79th
Kent State: 62nd
Kent State: 71st
“They pressure a lot with the front, and they like to bring an edge blitz,” Hazell said. “We’ve got to be able to handle that and not allow them to force us into negative plays.”
The Flashes average 210.4 rushing yards per game, ranking 27th in the FBS. Sophomore running back Trayion Durham and junior back Dri Archer lead the charge for the Flashes’ running game, with a combined total of 1,336 rushing yards this season.
If Rutgers is able to halt the Flashes’ running attack, Kent State will have to rely on the arm of senior quarterback Spencer Keith. Keith has taken a majority of the snaps this season for the Flashes, completing on 56 percent of his passes and throwing six touchdowns this season.
Sophomore wide receiver Chris Humphrey, one of Keith’s top targets, said a lot of the players are excited and confident heading into a game against a nationally ranked opponent for the first time this season.
“We’re confident that we’re going to go up there, do our thing and just worry about us,” Humphrey said. “They’re going to be really good, and we’re going to have to bring our A-game.”
Humphrey, who has 163 yards on 13 catches this season, added that the receivers will be ready if Rutgers is successful at keeping Kent State from running the ball.
“They usually put an extra guy in the box, so our line is going to have to work harder than it ever has,” Humphrey said. “Hopefully if they do stop the running game, it’ll open up the passing game for us. They have a really good defense, but we’re not just going to lay down for them.”
Senior kicker Freddy Cortez added that the team is not intimidated by the Scarlet Knights or by what will likely be a rowdy homecoming crowd.
Offensive line: Average weight of 296.4 lbs
Defensive line: Average weight of 262.5 lbs
Offensive line: Average weight of 303. 4 lbs
Defensive line: Average weight of 263.3 lbs.
“We’re not going there to just enjoy the environment and have fun,” Cortez said. “We’re going there to do what we can to get the win. I’m excited to be around their fans just to see what kind of fan base they have, but I’m also excited to play the game. I want to come home 7-1 and continue our success, and a win against Rutgers could mean a lot for our confidence.”
The game will also be a homecoming for Coach Hazell, who worked at Rutgers as a wide receivers coach from 2001 to 2003 and as an assistant head coach in 2003. Hazell said the area is also close to where he used to live.
“I grew up 45 minutes from there,” Hazell said. “My whole family will be there, and it’s definitely going to be fun going back and playing there.”