Flashes look to continue FCS streak at home opener

Freshman+running+back+Justin+Rankin+runs+the+ball+during+the+first+half+of+the+game+against+Penn+State+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+3%2C+2016+at+Beavers+Stadium.+Kent+State+lost+their+season+opener%2C+33-13.

Freshman running back Justin Rankin runs the ball during the first half of the game against Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Beavers Stadium. Kent State lost their season opener, 33-13.

Henry Palattella

Kent State (0-1) is looking to bounce back from its loss to Penn State when it welcomes Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse North Carolina A&T (1-0) this weekend.

The Flashes have won 13-straight games against FCS programs, with their most recent victory coming last year against Delaware State. The Flashes held the Hornets to -33 overall yards en route to a 45-13 win.

Two of Paul Haynes’ victories as head coach of the Flashes have come against FCS opponents.

Kent State is coming off a 33-13 loss to Penn State. The Flashes’ youth movement was on full display against the Nittany Lions; 15 players played in their first collegiate game, while six freshmen and sophomores made their first start.

Kent State outgained Penn State 162-161 in the first half, and went into halftime only trailing 16-13. However, Penn State made some key halftime adjustments and pulled away late.

Two of those players who made their debuts were freshman Justin Agner and redshirt freshman Mylik Mitchell, who both played key minutes at the quarterback position.

Agner went 8-for-15 for 64 yards while Mitchell went 6-for-12 with 65 yards and added 27 yards on the ground.

Some fresh faces were also shown in the ground game, with freshman running back Justin Rankin rushing for 82 yards on 13 attempts and fellow freshman Kavious Price ran for 31 yards — 28 of which came on a reverse that moved into Penn State’s red zone.

The Flashes defense stepped up against Penn State, as they forced four Penn State three-and-outs and one turnover on downs.

They also scored Kent State’s only touchdown when 2015 All-Mid-American Conference selection Terence Waugh forced a Penn State fumble and Elcee Refuge picked it up and took it into the end zone.

Fellow All-Conference selection Nate Holley was named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week after leading both defenses with 17 total tackles.

North Carolina A&T is coming off of a 62-0 win over St. Augustine’s. The Aggies had an award-winning 2015 season, as they finished 10-2 and beat SWAC champion Alcorn State last year in the Celebration Bowl.

“It would be interesting to see (North Carolina A&T) go to the FCS playoffs,” Haynes said. “They don’t because they play their championship game and that’s what they do, but it would be interesting to see how far this team could go because I think they’re talented enough to compete.”

The Aggies feature a number of playmakers on offense, starting with senior running back Tarik Cohen, who ran for 1,543 yards and 15 touchdowns last year.

Cohen only needed eight carries to get 44 yards and two touchdowns in the Aggies opener, and sophomore quarterback Lamar Raynard went 17-for-21 registering 170 yards and two touchdowns against St. Augustine’s after throwing seven touchdowns and only one interception last year.

Both of Raynard’s touchdown passes went to senior wideout Denzel Keyes, who caught eight touchdowns last year to go along with 435 yards.

“They got another dynamic running back, he’s totally different from the guy that we saw (last week),” Haynes said. “They got a big 6’5″ wide out that they throw the ball deep to. It’s going to be challenging for our guys, we don’t have the tallest of defensive backs.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Dix Stadium, with a fireworks display following the game.

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