Five things to watch heading into Kent State’s Homecoming matchup against Bowling Green


Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum (14) is hit by Auburn defensive end Big Kat Bryant (1) as he throws the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Ian Kreider Sports Reporter

  1. Dustin Crum played well, but who knows what that means in the long-term

Coach Sean Lewis has proven over his short tenure that he’s not afraid to make changes at any position — regardless of how big a name a player is heading into the season. 

This season, Lewis benched starting quarterback Woody Barrett two quarters into the season, despite the fact he’s a Power 5 transfer whose face appeared on the preseason media guide and seen as a key contributor in pre-season prediction articles.

Last season, Lewis benched senior linebackers Matt Bahr and Jim Jones at Miami (OH) in favor of Cepeda Phillips and Dalton Hicks. Lewis’ decision last year might have motivated the Flashes’ linebacking crew.

It remains to be seen what impact the change could have at quarterback. 

Crum finished with a career-high 198 passing yards through just two and a half quarters last week at Auburn. Crum led the Flashes on two first-half scoring drives in one of the toughest environments in college football.

“Really pleased with (Crum’s) continued growth week in and week out,” Lewis said.

Lewis said he was pleased with Crum’s command of the up-tempo offense, which caused several Auburn offside and substitution penalties throughout the game.

“It’s the one benefit of tempo where you can take a really talented defensive front and if you can lock them on the field, it gives you a competitive advantage,” Lewis said. “We’re able to do that because of the decisions that (Crum’s) making and the role that he’s settling into.”

But as Lewis has shown in the past, it takes one bad game.

  1.  Barrett has been used mainly as a running option.

On Saturday, Barrett rushed for three yards on a designed quarterback run on third-and-eight at the beginning of the second quarter. After that, he came in midway through the third quarter in a relief effort 3-for-11 for 31 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to senior receiver Kavious Price. Barrett played 24 of the Flashes 68 offensive snaps.  

“We have two really good quarterbacks,” Lewis said. “We’re gonna go through this song and dance each and every single week and we want to know the psyche of one guy, and how it affects the other guy. I’m not going to say anything bad about either one of them. Woody’s done a great job with everything. I think the way that he performed to go in an adverse situation and threw a dart for a touchdown speaks to the way that he’s handling everything.”

  1. After a tough start to the season, the offensive line will be key moving forward.

An injury to senior center Nate Warnock limited an already undersized Kent State offense Saturday. The Flashes gave up five sacks against Auburn. Warnock later returned to the game after medical evaluation.

Lewis said Warnock’s results came back fine.

“He got checked out, got medical clearance and came back in the game.”

Kent State has given up 11 sacks so far this season, which is the second-worst in the MAC, ahead of only Akron (18).

The Flashes struggled to keep Crum protected on non-screen plays. Aside from the 53-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Isaiah McKoy, the next longest pass completion was a 14-yard completion over the middle to McKoy.  

  1. The defense played well early, but their inability to stop the run is something to watch moving forward.

Kent State’s rushing defense allowed 3.9 yards per rush heading into the game at Auburn. Against the Tigers, the Flashes allowed 7.5 yards per rush. 

“I feel great about where we’re at with our rush defense,” Lewis said. 

Lewis pointed to the team’s success Week 1 against Arizona State.

“You watch Arizona State and they run the football against Michigan State and end up beating them on Saturday,” Lewis said. “So you know I’m going to lean more to the positive on that and feel good about where we’re at, but I know we’ve got a really formidable task with Bowling Green coming in here with what they want to do and how they formation you and personnel you and they do some really high level things in their run game as well.”

Bowling Green enters Saturday’s game averaging 3.9 yards per rush and three touchdowns.

  1. The Flashes showed marked improvement on third down.

Crum converted four first downs on the first drive. Kent State converted 5-of-14 attempts the remainder of the game.

“I believe when we talked last week we were at 33 percent, and that was a defense that was holding opponents to 21 percent going into it,” Lewis said. “To finish with a 50 percent conversion rate on third down is something that we can build upon,” 

Saturday’s game against Bowling Green (1-2) kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at home. According to ESPN, the Flashes are favored by 11 points. 

“We expect to win all the time,” Lewis said. “For everyone outside the family, it’s a surprise, but it’s a very good team that’s coming in. I think we’re favored this week, which is great. It’s a sign of growth and improvement but again at the end of the day that doesn’t matter.”

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