Defense leads Flashes football to win over Ohio


Matt Hafley

Junior defensive lineman Richard Gray runs dun Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton for a sack and loss of 9 yards during Kent’s 28-6 win over the Bobcats at Dix Stadium on Friday, Nov. 23. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Tim Dorst

The Kent State football team did not look particularly strong on offense Friday, but the defensive unit picked up the slack when it had to.

The Flashes defeated the Ohio Universtiy Bobcats 28-6 Friday afternoon at Dix Stadium to win their 10th straight game and finish the regular season with an 11-1 record.

Kent State also completed its sweep through its Mid-American Conference schedule with a perfect 8-0 record for the first time in team history. The Flashes became the first MAC East Division to accomplish this feat since Miami University in 2003.

Head coach Darrell Hazell said the team found a way to pull out another big win despite not playing as well offensively as he would have liked.

“I thought our defense played phenomenal throughout the whole course of the game,” Hazell said. “They created some points and gave us short fields on the offensive, and we scored enough points obviously offensively to keep the lead.”

The Flashes sacked Ohio’s starting quarterback Tyler Tettleton eight times, forced four fumbles and came up with two turnovers as they contained the Bobcats’ offense for the better part of the afternoon. Senior linebacker C.J. Malauulu said he knew the importance of the defensive getting off to a fast start in the game.

“We like to come out hot all the time,” Malauulu said. “We want to just set the pace, set the tone and bring it to the offensive, and we did that.”

The defense began to make plays on Ohio’s first drive of the game, when Malauulu jarred the ball loose from Bobcats running back Beau Blankenship. Junior safety Luke Wollet scooped up the fumble and returned it 50 yards for the defensive touchdown, putting the Flashes ahead early.

The Flashes extended their first quarter lead with a 15-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Trayion Durham. Later in the quarter, Malauulu came up big again, picking off a pass from Tettleton and taking it back for a 33-yard touchdown.

“It just happened so fast, I couldn’t believe,” Malauulu said. “I was manned up on the backside tight end, but he just stayed in the block. I looked at the quarterback and saw his eyes toward the other side of the field, so I started rolling over that way. I picked it, and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I got the ball.’”

Ohio kicker Matt Weller put the Bobcats on the scoreboard in the first with a 33-yard field goals and added a 41-yarder right before halftime. The kicking game was the only source of scoring for the Bobcats as the Flashes were able to keep them out of the end zone for the duration of the game.

On Senior Day for the Flashes, it was only appropriate that senior quarterback Spencer Keith connected with fifth-year senior receiver Eric Adeyemi on a 24-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach for the Bobcats.

Keith said he had always hoped to play in a MAC Championship game during his four years with the team, and now that is about to be reality.

“Coach Hazell has done a great job at coming in here and changing the whole thing around,” Keith said. “We’ve all responded really well. We just have to keep it going these last two games.”

Since their 1-6 start at the beginning of the 2011 season, the Flashes have won 15 of their last 17 games under the direction of Hazell. Keith said the whole team believes in what Hazell and the other coaches say.

“They give us great game plans to work with every week,” Keith said. “We just go out there every Saturday not thinking that we’re too far down or anything like that and just knowing that we can come back anytime.”

This game marked the last game at Dix Stadium for Keith, Malauulu and the 17 other seniors on the squad who will be graduating shortly, and Hazell said it’s a great thing to have seniors on the team who lead by example.

“Our seniors are excellent leaders,” Hazell said. “They’re not afraid to tell guys that they’re not doing it the right way, and obviously they play extremely hard. I can’t be more proud of our guys.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].

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