Flashes look for first bowl win in team history

Tim Dorst

The Kent State football team arrived at the practice field in Mobile, Ala. Wednesday afternoon to prepare for one of the most significant games in Flashes football history.

For the first time in 40 years, the Flashes will make a bowl game appearance when they take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves in the GoDaddy.com Bowl at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Team Averages/National Rankings

Team Team Points Per Game Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Offense

Kent State

34.6/34th 228.3/15th 162.9/107th 391.2/75th

Arkansas State

36.4/21th 217.4/21th 264.4/40th 481.8/17th

This will be the Flashes’ third all-time appearance in a bowl game, the first in 1954 in the Refrigerator Bowl that resulted in a loss to the University of Delaware. The last time Kent State played in a bowl was in the 1972 Tangerine Bowl. The Flashes lost 21-18 to the University of Tampa.

Kent State, who won its first ever Mid-American Conference East Division title, will be out for redemption following the Flashes’ 44-37 double-overtime loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game on Nov. 30. The loss to NIU snapped a team-record 10-game winning streak that the Flashes carried for the majority of the 2012 season.

A win over the Red Wolves Sunday would cap off a record-breaking season for the Flashes, during which they set a team record of wins in a single season with 11. The Flashes also completed a regular-season sweep of MAC opponents with a perfect 8-0 record before the MAC Title game defeat.

Hazell’s Final Game with KSU

On Dec. 5, Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell officially accepted a job offer from Purdue University to become the new head football coach of the Boilermakers. As part of the six-year, $12 million deal, Purdue granted Hazell permission to coach the Flashes in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

Hazell, who won MAC Coach of the Year this season, holds a record of 16-9 in two seasons as the Flashes’ head coach. In his relatively short tenure with the team, Hazell turned Kent State’s luck around and transformed the team into a conference powerhouse and a nationally ranked program.

After Hazell leaves to coach Purdue full time, former Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes will become the Flashes’ new head coach. Haynes was hired by Kent State as its 21st head football coach on Dec. 18.

Haynes played defensive back for the Flashes from 1987 to 1991 and went on to several assistant coaching positions, including a stint with Kent State as a defensive backs coach in 1999 and 2000. While Hazell will be coach his final game with the Flashes, Haynes will be in attendance to watch his alma mater play.

The Opponent

The Arkansas State Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference championship with a 9-3 overall record and a 7-1 record over conference opponents. The Red Wolves faced a similar situation that the Flashes went through when Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn accepted an offer to become head coach at Auburn.

Defensive coordinator John Thompson was promoted to interim head coach for the bowl game, while Arkansas State hired former Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin as its new head coach starting next season.

The Red Wolves bring their 17th-ranked offense into Ladd-Peebles Stadium, led by senior quarterback Ryan Aplin. Aplin finished second in the Sun Belt this season in passing yards with 3,129, throwing 23 touchdown passes to only four interceptions.

Going against a Kent State pass defense ranked 108th in the country, Arkansas State is likely to go to the air early and often against the Flashes and attempt to pile up the points. During the Red Wolves’ seven-game winning streak this season, they averaged more than 41 point per contest.

In the running game, the Red Wolves will fall back mostly on the legs of junior running back Daivd Oku, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 15 touchdown this season.

Kent State Keys to Victory

Junior running back Dri Archer had his least-productive performance of the season in the MAC Championship game on Nov. 30, as NIU held him to just 15 yards on 12 carries. For this game, Archer must return to regular season form for the Flashes to be successful.

Archer led the team this season with 1,352 rushing yards, recording an unprecedented 9.0 yards-per-carry average through 13 games. His 15 rushing touchdowns also led the team, followed closely by sophomore running back Trayion Durham with 14.

Kent State’s main strength continues to be its rushing offense, which ranked 17th in the country this season. The backfield duo of Durham and Archer combined for 2,600 total rushing yards.

The Flashes also tied for first among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in turnover margin with a plus-21. A combination of protecting the ball on offense and forcing an abundance of turnovers on defense has been a major factor to the Flashes’ success throughout the year.

Kent State’s defense forced 38 turnovers over the course of 13 games, 23 of which were interceptions. Junior safety Luke Wollet led the team with four, while four different defensive linemen picked off passes this season.

Stats Comparison


Spencer Keith (Kent State)

116-300 1,864 yards 12 TDs 9 INTs

Ryan Aplin (ASU)

255-376 3,129 yards 23 TDs 4 INTs


Dri Archer (Kent State)

150 carries 1,352 yards 9.0 avg 15 TDs

Trayion Durham (Kent State)

256 carries 1,248 yards 4.9 avg 14 TDs

David Oku (ASU)

225 carries 1,024 yards 4.6 avg 15 TDs

Rocky Hayes (ASU)

50 carries 481 yards 9.6 avg 3 TDs


Dri Archer (Kent State)

35 catches 539 yards 15.4 avg 4 TDs

Matthew Hurdle (Kent State)

29 catches 261 yards 9.0 avg 1 TD

J.D. McKissic (ASU)

92 catches 909 yards 9.9 avg 4 TDs

Josh Jarboe (ASU)

47 catches 546 yards 11.6 avg 4 TDs

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected] and on Twitter @TimmyD_DKS.