Ball security, limiting penalties are Lewis’ focus heading into Penn State


Kent State sophomore safety Elvis Hines exchanges words with Howard’s Mason Jordan after a tackle during the first quarter of their matchup Friday, Sept. 8, 2018. Kent State won, 54-14.

Ian Kreider

The Kent State football team’s problems with turnovers and penalties were overshadowed by a 54-14 drubbing against Howard (0-2), but Flashes coach Sean Lewis still took notice.

“We’re going to have a major ownage on valuing the football this week,” Lewis said. “We need to clean up the area of penalties. Fifteen penalties for 150 yards is way too much.”

The defense picked up the slack, forcing two interceptions and a fumble, which often put the offense in short field situations. However, Lewis knows there is still room for improvement.

The team was also very successful on the ground, combining for 355 yards while averaging almost seven yards per carry. Juniors Justin Rankin and Jo-El Shaw each ran for more than 100 yards and combined for four of the team’s six rushing touchdowns.

“We’re very fortunate with Jo-El, Justin and Will (Matthews), to have three kids there that we feel confident with and whoever is the hot hand, whoever can help us move the ball, we’re going to play,” Lewis said. “We’re going to do it by committee because we’re very fortunate to have some depth at that position.”

“We have to continue to get back to the fundamentals,” he said. “We went from 24 missed tackles against Illinois to only nine against Howard. We would like for that number to ultimately be zero.”

The team is facing off against its second Power 5 opponent in three weeks. No. 11 Penn State is coming off an impressive 51-6 thrashing of Pittsburgh on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions are led by Heisman hopeful Trace McSorley, who finished his last two seasons with more than 3,500 passing yards. They are also 35-point favorites heading into Saturday against the Flashes. The last time the two teams faced off, Penn State won, 33-13, in 2016, with the Flashes heading into that game as 24-point underdogs.

The Flashes may have to look to slow down McSorley without one of their best defenders, senior Jim Jones, who is day to day after suffering an injury early in the team’s win against Howard.

However, Lewis is focused on his team heading into the game.

“Being perfect with our fundamentals, techniques and schemes so that we give ourselves a chance to win by not beating ourselves,” he said of his expectations heading into the game.

The team had a variety of drops at different points in the game that could have resulted in even more points.

“At the end of the day, we ended up having seven or eight drops,” he said. “The ball was on our receivers’ hands, and our expectation is that if the ball is on your hands, you’re going to catch it.”

The team will play Penn State on Saturday at noon at Beaver Stadium. The game will air on Fox Sports 1.

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