Flashes football prepares for second road test at Penn State

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LSU freshman wide receiver Travin Dural (83) escapes a Kent State player Saturday, September 14, 2013 in the Tigers’ 45-13 victory against Kent State. Photo by Angela Major/The Daily Reveile.

Nick Shook

A double-digit loss typically isn’t a good sign for a football team, but for Kent State coach Paul Haynes, plenty of positives could be taken out of a 45-13 road defeat at the hands of LSU.

The Flashes struggled mightily on the road in a hostile environment against the Tigers but started to put it together offensively after falling behind by three scores early. Kent State drove 37 yards in four plays to add three points by way of a 37-yard field goal from kicker and punter Anthony Melchiori just before halftime. The Flashes’ second drive in the third quarter, a 10-play, 49-yard possession, resulted in another Melchiori field goal from 36 yards out.

Haynes was most pleased by his team’s relentless attitude, despite the large deficit they faced early in the game.

“There’s a lot of good things that happened, a lot of things we can build off of that we can continue to do well, and of course a lot of things we’ve got to get better at,” Haynes said Monday. “[There was a] different look in the team, different look in our guys’ eyes in the second half even when we get down from week two to week three, and that was the one thing we talked about, continuing to fight for 60 minutes. This football team did.”

Melchiori’s play in both the kicking and punting game drew praise from Haynes during Monday’s press conference, and the kicker said getting two successful field goals under his belt in front of a raucous crowd on the road helped boost his mental approach going forward.

“It’s just a confidence builder for me, coming off last year not kicking field goals and not handling all the kicking duties,” Melchiori said. “Being able to knock two of those three down in a really big venue was just a lot of confidence for me and really ensured that I can make those field goals in those types of situations.”

With the loss now behind them, the Flashes begin a week of preparation for their next opponent, Big Ten Conference-member Penn State. A power outage kept Haynes from studying a good amount of film Sunday, so he spent his Monday morning breaking down tape of the Nittany Lions, who are coming off a surprising 34-31 loss to Central Florida at home.

The Flashes will go from playing in front of one of the toughest crowds in college football to another difficult place to play. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium seats 106,572, which is larger than Tiger Stadium by more than 13,000 fans. Kent State’s road test against the Tigers has the Flashes feeling prepared to play in front of large crowds anywhere.

“To go into those big venues and be able to play against those so-called bigger schools, our guys look forward to that all the time,” Haynes said. “It’s going to be a great environment, it’s going to be a great challenge, but it’s going to be fun for us also.”

The Flashes are prepared to again play without running back Dri Archer. Haynes said Archer’s nagging left ankle injury has him currently listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game in University Park, but the staff will monitor his progress as the week goes on.

Facing a Big Ten opponent is no easy task for any mid-major school such as Kent State, but the Flashes were encouraged by the game played by rival Akron against Michigan, in which the Zips were one yard away from upsetting the 11th-ranked Wolverines. Akron fell to Michigan, 28-24, but the game proved that Mid-American Conference teams can play competitively with Big Ten schools.

Kent State wide receiver Chris Humphrey made sure to note that he was not cheering for the Zips, nor will he ever do so.

“It was definitely a good game, but I’ll never be rooting for Akron until the day I die,” sophomore wideout Chris Humphrey said Monday. “I definitely give them some credit for playing a bigger school like that in the Big Ten, but they fell short, and I was happy.”

Kent State will face Penn State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].