Bucks, Ducks and Flashes: How Kent State fared against a national finalist

Courtesy of MCT Campus.

Jimmy Miller

When Kent State’s football team traveled to Columbus to play the Ohio State Buckeyes in September, nobody expected the Flashes were playing a national finalist.

Nobody could have predicted that after the Buckeyes dropped a heartbreaker to Virginia Tech at home, Ohio State would have made a comeback and still edge its way into the national semifinals.

Nobody would have guessed that weeks later, the Buckeyes would lose their potential Heisman candidate — and backup — quarterback J.T. Barrett to a fractured right ankle and would have to turn to third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. Ohio State would still perplex the nation with a big 59-0 win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

But the Buckeyes pulled all of that off and more, starting with their blowout win over the Flashes on Sept. 13. Ohio State, still reeling from its narrow 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech, came out stronger than they would all season against a struggling Kent State team.

The final score: 66-0, Ohio State.

Perhaps a fairly insignificant game in the long-term, the Buckeyes’ demolition of the Flashes did ignite a chain reaction, as Ohio State went on to rattle off 12 straight wins, the most recent of which coming Jan. 1, in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes edged Alabama, the top-ranked team in the nation, 42-35, and advanced to the National Championship Game to take on the University of Oregon.

The early game against the Flashes may have proved more than a confidence booster following a loss that, as deemed at the time, would end their hopes to make the inaugural college playoff: The contest displayed the capabilities of a team ready to establish themselves as title contenders.

Who to watch for Monday night

  • Ezekiel Elliott, sophomore running back: In a game where a whole slew of players got to touch the ball, the tailback finished second on the team in rushing yards with 65 and third in receiving with 52 yards. Granted, Elliott never hit pay dirt in the game, but his performance against Alabama can’t be ignored: 230 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
  • Michael Thomas, sophomore wide receiver: With 77 yards and two scores against the Flashes, Thomas continued an impressive campaign with the Buckeyes, capping it off against the Crimson Tide to finish second on the team in receiving with 66 yards and a touchdown. Sure, senior wide receiver Devin Smith draws the most attention as a quick vertical threat, but ignoring Thomas would be a mistake for the Ducks.
  • Joey Bosa, sophomore defensive lineman: No, he did not singlehandedly dissect the Crimson Tide offense, nor did he lead his team in any statistical category against the Flashes; however, the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year will look to make noise against one of the most prolific offenses in college football. Bosa, known for what he does to put pressure on the quarterback, will need to have a big day to force Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota — the Heisman winner — into making poor decisions when passing the ball.
  • Cardale Jones, sophomore quarterback: Jones played limited snaps against the Flashes as Barrett started the game, but Jones has continued to raise the bar for himself, starting with his 257-yard, three-touchdown victory against Wisconsin. After outgunning Alabama’s Blake Sims, Jones looks to match toe-to-toe with Mariota in what looks to be an offensive shootout. Jones will need to limit his turnovers throughout the game, as Mariota, who has only thrown three picks this season, leads one of the most efficient offenses in the country and will capitalize on any Buckeye mistakes.

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].