Kent State prepares to play at Buffalo after two-year delay

Senior+runningback+Dri+Archer+runs+the+ball+against+the+Buffalo+Bulls+on+Oct.+26%2C+2013.+The+Golden+Flashes+lost+41-21.

Senior runningback Dri Archer runs the ball against the Buffalo Bulls on Oct. 26, 2013. The Golden Flashes lost 41-21.

Henry Palattella

When Kent State (1-4, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) takes on University at Buffalo (1-3) this weekend, it will be a game that has been two years in the making. The Flashes and and the Bulls were scheduled to play in 2014, but the game was never played due to inclement weather.

“That was crazy,” said Paul Haynes, Kent State head coach. “Two years ago I commended the kids because it was like we were going to play, then we weren’t going to play. So we had so many walk-throughs before the game was started. …That was the strange thing.”

The team made it to Amherst, New York (where the Bulls’ stadium is), but they were forced to take a longer way, and what is normally a three-hour drive was turned into a nine-hour drive because they tried to stay out of the way of the snowstorm that hit.

One of the team buses blew out a tire as well, resulting in players from that bus having to be split up onto the two remaining buses. While the players made it to Buffalo, their equipment didn’t, as that bus got stuck on one of the 132 miles of interstate that was closed down in the state of New York. It was estimated that the Buffalo area was hit with up to 60 inches of snow during that weekend.

The Flashes still ran into trouble once they got to the hotel, as the horrible weather caused problems inside.

“We had 15 players get stuck in an elevator,” Haynes said. “It was halfway open so we could look down and see them, and I mean they were stuck. I don’t for how long, but it was quite a while. We had to send food down because they had to eat (and) the elevator got stuck on the way to dinner. It was kind of strange because none of the maintenance people were there.”

Fifth-year senior tight end Brice Fackler reiterated how odd of a situation the Flashes were in two years ago.

“It was really weird,” Fackler said. “Every time going back down and getting ready to leave the hotel you’re getting ready to go, getting the mindset of being ready to play. And then (Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold) would bring us up and say ‘alright guys, not this time, we’re going to plan for tomorrow.’

Fackler said the situation was tough and “very weird.”

“I’m thankful I wasn’t one of the guys on the elevator,” he said. “They were on there forever.”

The game was not postponed at first, as the MAC tried to move the game to the upcoming Friday in the hopes that the storm would die down.

While postponing the game was originally an intended good idea, the Kent State team and coaching staff were placed in an odd situation, as they came prepared to only stay one night.

“(We had) to do an underwear run,” Haynes said. “That was the craziest thing ever in all my years of coaching. We were like a thrift store, just going out and having a bunch of underwear and T-shirts laid out on tables, and guys (coming and snatching) them.”

Haynes said that when the team goes away on trips, they usually only pack for one night. In the situation two years ago, the Flashes were away for four days.

“I don’t think it’s good hygiene to wear the same underwear for four days,”

The game ended up being canceled and not made up, as neither Kent State (2-9 at the time of the postponement) nor Buffalo (5-6) were bowl-eligible.

These two teams played last year at the Dix Stadium, with Buffalo squeaking by with an 18-17 victory on a late touchdown pass by now-NFL player Joe Licata. With Licata graduated, the Bulls now having true freshman Tyree Jackson behind center. Jackson — who was recruited by Haynes — has thrown for 475 yards and three touchdowns this year.

“(He’s) big, strong and athletic,” Haynes said of Jackson. “He’s got a big, strong arm. I think they’ve settled on him, so they’re going through some youth pains right now.”

Those pains were evident last week, as Boston College held the Bulls to 65 total yards in a 35-3 Eagles victory.

The Flashes also have a new look behind center, and it’s not a conventional one. Junior Nick Holley is Kent State’s quarterback going forward, and if his debut should serve as an indication of what’s to come, the Flashes’ offense should be just fine.

Holley gained over 400 total yards against The University of Akron over the weekend, while throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. The performance was good enough for Holley to be named the M.A.C. East offensive player of the week.

Kent State also possesses another offensive spark plug in the form of true freshman running back Justin Rankin. Rankin is currently averaging 115.6 all-purpose yards per game, which leads all F.B.S. freshman.

Both have a little extra motivation coming into this M.A.C. East showdown as they will be looking for their first conference win. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

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