Banged-up Flashes looking for players to step up against Penn State

Kent State celebrates after defeating Akron in last year’s Wagon Wheel game for the third year in a row Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, at Dix Stadium. Photo by Hannah Potes.

Nick Shook

Playing a game without one of the best players on the roster is difficult for any team.

Doing so in front of more than 100,000 hostile fans on the road is much tougher, and is what Kent State faces heading into Happy Valley this weekend.

Coming off a 45-13 loss at LSU, the Flashes (1-2, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) hit the road again to take on Penn State (2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa.

Kent State will do so without standout running back Dri Archer, who was considered doubtful as the week progressed. It’s becoming a theme of the young season, as Archer has played less than an entire half of football in 2013.

The Flashes also lost defensive tackle Nate Terhune, who had surprised some with his play so far into the season, to a broken leg suffered against LSU. Terhune had surgery Sunday and is expected to miss significant time, meaning the burden falls not only on the next man up for the Flashes, but also senior defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix.

“Nate was continuing to come along,” head coach Paul Haynes said. “I still think he’s going to be a great player once we get him back, but just like without Dri on the offense, guys like [wide receiver Josh] Boyle and [wide receiver and running back Ernest] Calhoun stepping up, we need [sophomore defensive tackle Chris] Fairchild and [junior defensive end] Marcus Wright to step up.”

The Flashes may also be without senior offensive lineman Pat McShane, who started on the line for Kent State in 2012, but has been hampered by a recurring knee issue in 2013. McShane was on the field for nearly 20 plays in a 41-22 loss to Bowling Green, but his knee kept him out of action against LSU.

“Pat’s feeling good,” Haynes said. “It’s just these are all the tough decisions we have to make about the future, you know, the rest of the year or this game, with about three or four guys.”

During preparations for the Flashes’ game against LSU, words like “atmosphere” and “experience” were repeated countless times by both players and coaches. Those same words were spoken this week, but both Haynes and his players feel they are better prepared for Saturday’s contest at Penn State, so much so that artificial crowd noise was deemed unnecessary during practice.

“They got the feel, they got the message, the hand signals and stuff like that,” Haynes said. “We talk about [playing in a loud stadium], but I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Fifth-year senior Tyshon Goode is one of few elder members on the roster who have played at Beaver Stadium as a Flash. Kent State fell to Penn State 24-0 in their last meeting in 2010.

“The atmosphere, I feel like by us playing one big team after another, guys could already be used to the atmosphere,” Goode said. “You’re going to come in, yes, there’s going to be 100,000 people, but the only people that matter in the stadium is us versus them. Everybody, including some of us older guys, we’re going to have all of that out of the way and just tuned in on the game.”

Goode is a vital member of the offense and the Flashes’ top option at receiver; but despite his important role in the offense, the absence of Archer has affected how opposing defenses approach the Kent State offensive attack.

“When he was in the LSU game, they were calling him out, making sure they knew where he was at,” Goode said. “Dri draws a lot of attention to himself. He’s able to free up some of us when he’s out on the field, so definitely we miss him. But some guys have to step up and rise to the challenge.”

The Flashes’ offense will need to be able to get things going from the outset at Penn State. Goode noted how important starting off fast will be for Kent State in hopes of earning a big road victory against an opponent from the Big Ten Conference.

“I feel like every game, it’s important for the offense to go out there and set the tone,” Goode said. “It’ll definitely boost our defense a little if the offense comes out strong and is able to put together a good drive and score. It’s vital to our success going forward.”

With or without Archer, Terhune and McShane, the Flashes will have to continue to progress as a team if they hope to upset Penn State and continue on their path to a second straight MAC East Division title.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].