Archer off the bench, Flashes prep for LSU


Freshman wide reciever Ernest Calhoun breaks through the line during Kent Sate’s game against Bowling Green Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Kent State lost 22-41. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Nick Shook

The facts facing Kent State this weekend are simple: LSU is a national power, winning two national titles and recording eight 10-win seasons since 2001. The Tigers are is a perennial contender in the Southeastern Conference, which is widely regarded as the top conference in college football.

Despite these facts, Kent State is keeping the focus on its own players heading into Saturday’s contest at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

“It’s more mental to me than anything, and getting prepared for the environment,” Flashes head coach Paul Haynes said. “Getting prepared to just sit there and fight for 60 minutes, cause that’s exactly what it’s going to be.

Senior running back Dri Archer will play this weekend after sitting out because of an ankle injury last weekend. Archer will undoubtedly make a difference in the Flashes’ ability to move the football, but they will also be dealing with an element that supersedes the action on the field.

The coaching staff has tried to simulate how loud it will be at Tiger Stadium, which seats 92,549 people by piping in artificial crowd noise through speakers placed on the field during practice at Dix Stadium.

“You never know until you get there and you’ve got all the other distractions with the pom-poms and stuff like that,” Haynes said. “You just want them to sit there and know that it’s going to be loud, so we’ve got to use hand signals and things like that. The focus has been good.”

The Flashes are coming off a 41-22 defeat at the hands of conference foe Bowling Green last Saturday in which Kent State could not keep up the early success it displayed in the first half. The Flashes struggled stopping the run, and this weekend will be no easier against LSU.

The Tigers feature multiple running backs who have combined to rush for 354 yards, but Jeremy Hill, arguably the Tigers’ best back, has carried the ball just six times for 50 yards.

Hill was recently reinstated to the team following a suspension due to his arrest on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery outside a bar near LSU’s campus. Tigers head coach Les Miles allowed Hill to return after a team vote in his favor, and he dressed but did not play in the Tigers’ season-opening win over No. 24 Texas Christian.

Hill is expected to be a factor this weekend against the Flashes, but the Tigers’ potent backfield poses problems for Kent State’s defense, even without Hill.

“Their running backs are big, and they run physical,” Haynes said. “Our guys are going to have to do a good job of tackling and wrapping up.”

While the Tigers have an excellent backfield, their quarterback poses an even bigger threat to the Flashes. Senior Zach Mettenberger was a question heading into the 2013 season, but he has essentially put those concerns to rest in his first two games this season, completing 31 of 52 attempts for 533 yards and six touchdowns.

Despite these statistics, Kent State’s defensive leaders aren’t focused on the players on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

“They’re obviously a great team, great athletes on both sides of the ball,” senior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix said. “We’re excited to play, and if we play our ball, we’ll be fine.”

Along with travel bags and equipment, the defense will bring with it a never-say-die attitude of which senior safety Luke Wollet is proud.

“We’ll keep fighting, we’re going to fight every week, we’re going to fight every day,” Wollet said. “No matter who we play, we’re going to fight, and that’s what I love about our defense.”

Offensively, the Flashes are hoping to lift themselves out of the rut they were mired in during the home loss to Bowling Green. But as Haynes has stressed all week, it comes down to how well the Flashes perform.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for our offense to make sure that we execute and do some things well,” Haynes said. “But it’ll be a solid, simple gameplan and going down there and executing.”

Nix views it as just another game, albeit in a much larger stadium.

“They’ve got to put their shoulder pads on just like us,” Nix said. “Yeah they have a name and they have more fans, a bigger school or whatever, but they have to put their shoulder pads and helmets on just like us. They play football just like we do.”

Kickoff between the Flashes and Tigers is set for 7 p.m.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].