Kent State faces off against Ohio in attempt to salvage season

Henry Palattella

There’s an old adage that says that football is a game of inches. It’s safe to say that Kent State senior safety Nate Holley would agree with that statement.

Holley – who came into Saturday’s game with some of the best tackling numbers in college football – missed tackling Miami University’s running back Kenny Young by mere inches after he caught a bubble screen, out of the backfield, on the Redhawks last drive.

Young brushed off Holley’s near-tackle and took the pass 55 yards into the end zone, a score that gave the Redhawks an 18-14 lead with 1:34 left.

To add further insult to injury, junior starting quarterback Nick Holley suffered a concussion late in the second half, an injury that could keep him out of Saturday’s game against Ohio ( 4-3, 2-1 Mid-American Confrence) – a game that is now a must-win if the Flashes (2-5, 1-2 MAC) want to have any chance of contending in the crowded MAC East.

The same must-win narrative could be applied to the Bobcats. Ohio suffered a killer l 27-20 loss to Eastern Michigan last week and that, coupled with a loss to the Flashes, could all but end Ohio’s season.

Ohio also has a question mark in regards to the quarterback position, as Ohio head coach removed senior quarterback Greg Windham in the second quarter in favor of red-shirt freshman Quinton Maxwell. Maxwell played well, throwing for 188 yards and a touchdown to go along with one interception.

“(Windham) showed flashes of playing like he can play, but there were moments where… some of his throws weren’t right on,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said at his press conference on Monday. “He did another good job of running the ball, he picked up some crucial first downs to keep drives alive. (Maxwell) came in and I thought he played well. His passing percentage was very good. He showed that he also can run.”

Windham has been a dual-threat all season, as he leads the Bobcats in both rushing and passing. He has rushed for 350 yards and three touchdowns, while passing for 1,282 yards and eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Flashes face a decision at quarterback as well, as their dual-threat quarterback Nick Holley is still in concussion protocol due to the aforementioned injury he sustained against the Redhawks.

“(Nick) has to go through that (concussion) protocol, and we’ll know during the week.” Kent State head coach Paul Haynes said during Monday’s press conference.

Holley injured would leave an obvious void behind center for the Flashes, one that would be filled by sophomore running back Myles Washington, Haynes said.

If Washington has to start at quarterback, Haynes says he hopes that his transition to quarterback is as smooth as it was for Holley.

Holley – who hadn’t played quarterback since high school – rushed for 425 yards and threw for 465 yards in the two and a half games he spent at quarterback. He complied 9 total touchdowns in that time.

This uncertainty on offense could lead to a low-scoring defensive battle, something that Solich is apprehensive about.

“(Kent) has a very experienced team, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Solich said. “Nate Holley is as good a defensive back that we will play all year. Terence Waugh is an outstanding run-in player, he’s already proven that he’s a great athlete. They have most everybody back from last year’s team, they’re really strong defensively.”

The Flashes will have their hands full with the bobcats defense, both in the secondary and the trenches. The Bobcats lead the MAC with nine interceptions, with redshirt freshman Javon Hagan and redshirt sophomore Kylan Nelson leading the way with two interceptions each.

The Flashes offensive line will be busy trying to contain senior defensive end Tarrell Basham. Basham – who is Ohio’s all-time sack leader – has 6 1/2 sacks this year. He has 24 1/2 sacks in his career.

The MAC East is still very crowded, and this game has serious implications on how the rest of the year will play out. A Flashes win, combined with a Miami (1-6, 1-2 MAC) win and Akron (4-2, 2-1 MAC) loss would generate a four team tie atop the MAC East.

“We’re still a game away from being at the top,” Haynes said. “There’s still a lot of football to play. There’s still a lot to play for.”

Henry Palattella is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].