Five key factors for Kent State’s matchup against Auburn


Junior quarterback Dustin Crum is tackled after running the ball during the final minutes of overtime of Kent State’s first home game against Kennesaw State University on Saturday, September 7, 2019.

Ian Kreider

  1. Coach Sean Lewis is keeping the quarterback position vague.

Lewis explained after Kent State’s 26-23 win against Kennesaw State that junior quarterback Dustin Crum earned the start because of his preparation throughout the week. Lewis called junior quarterback Woody Barrett “our guy” after the 30-7 loss at Arizona State on Aug. 29. Barrett played just one snap and had one carry for no gain on a designed quarterback run.

“It’s just about the results and the day-in-day-out preparation for things,” Lewis said. “Woody kind of had a lingering injury through training camp that we kept under wraps because there was no competitive advantage in letting that out, and it’s one of those things where we’re going to look at the situation for what it is right now. 

 When it was time to go to MAC Media Day, he was the starting quarterback; he had earned that right. Today, as we sit here, he’s a really good quarterback in our program that’s going to get an opportunity to play on Saturday.”

 Lewis said Barrett is currently healthy, despite his lack of playing time.

 Crum finished 17-for-23 for 192 passing yards in Saturday’s win. A large chunk of those yards came on a 75-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Isaiah McKoy. He also threw for 47 yards on the final drive that put the Flashes in a position to win. 

“We’ve got two really good quarterbacks,” Lewis said. “We’re gonna play them both, and we’re going to find a way to win by playing them both.”

 Lewis said Barrett took the change well, and there has been little indication to counter his statement. Barrett spent most of the last game wearing a towel over his head standing on the sideline.

 However, Barrett has been unavailable to the press since the scrimmage on Aug. 19. 

One thing is for sure: If Lewis knows who the starting quarterback is for the remainder of the season, he’s not telling anyone. 

  1. Special teams could play a factor early.

The Flashes have muffed three punts so far this season, including two last week that put Kennesaw State in scoring position. 

That said, junior punter Derek Adams flipped field position several times, and sophomore kicker Matthew Trickett hit a pair of late field goals that tied and won the game for the Flashes on Saturday. He was named MAC East special teams player of the week for his effort. 

Senior cornerback Jamal Parker averaged almost 30 yards per kickoff return against the Owls. 

  1. The offense will need to take more shots down the field to challenge Auburn.

Kent State averaged six yards per pass attempt over the first two games, but only 3 yards against Arizona State. Kent State will not be able to screen pass its way to a win against an SEC defense. 

Aside from the 75-yard touchdown pass and the final drive where McKoy broke open on the sideline several times, the passing game has been limited. The Flashes have appeared one-dimensional at times. This, paired with their fast-paced approach, has kept Kent State’s above-average defense on the field for long stretches.

The seemingly impending return of receiver Mike Carrigan will help. 

Lewis told the Record-Courier on Monday that Carrigan, “will be available if he does the right things this week.”

  1. Defensive linemen Theo Majette continues to be a dominant force.

Majette has three sacks, which is tied for eighth in the nation. He had one sack against Kennesaw State and seemed to be involved in every play, finishing with 11 tackles. 

 Lewis said Majette was limited in the spring because of a shoulder injury.

 “While he was recovering, he was always mentally engaged,” Lewis said. “He was learning and growing, and when he got the green light, he had a great training camp. He’s got an infectious energy. Guys are looking to him to make those plays, and he’s stepping up and consistently doing those things, and we need him to consistently do that throughout the course of the year for us to have success on that side of the ball.”

  1. Lewis continues to be optimistic, despite upcoming matchups.

 After a 30-7 beatdown at Arizona State and a close overtime win against an FCS team, Lewis continues to be confident in his team. Two of the next three games are against teams ranked in the top-25 (No. 8 Auburn and No. 14 Wisconsin). Lewis said it’s important for his team “not even to have that mindset first and foremost.” 

 “We expect to do some great things, and that’s one of the things we’re instilling in our kids: that we’re going down there to compete. We’ve got to be right with limiting the self-inflicted wounds; you know, our penalty count was a little bit up from a week ago. We were up to seven with 70 yards worth of penalties, so we have to limit that. We’ve got to stay on schedule when it comes to where we’re at defensively or offensively so we don’t put ourselves in a hole one way or the other so that we can do the things that we want to do and execute in the ways which we want to.”

 While Lewis and the Flashes are deep in preparation for Saturday’s game, it seems like Malzahn and the Tigers have more important things to worry about. 

 “Our guys are excited to be back home for our second home game,” Malzahn said during his press conference Tuesday. “We’re playing a very solid Kent State team. 6 p.m. kick. Personally, I wish it was at noon; we’d have more time to prepare for our next opponent.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The game is available on ESPN2.

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

Aaron Mcdade contributed to this article.