Flashes football looks to clinch division title against Bowling Green


Kent Running back Trayion Durhamis taken down by the Rutgers defense at High Point Solutions stadium on Oct. 27. The Flashes defeated the Scarlet Knights at their homecoming game, 35-23.. Photo by BRIAN SMITH.

Tim Dorst

The No. 25-ranked Kent State football team can punch its ticket to the Mid-American Conference Championship game with a crucial conference win this weekend.

The Flashes will travel to Doyt L. Perry Stadium to take on the Bowling Green Falcons at noon Saturday in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Kent State (9-1, 6-0 MAC) holds a one-game lead over Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1 MAC) in the MAC East Division, and a win for the Flashes would clinch the division and guarantee them a shot to play for their first MAC title since 1972.

Head coach Darrell Hazell said this game will be a strength-on-strength match up, and he said the Flashes will have to play as hard as they have all season.

“[Bowling Green] is a phenomenal football team,” Hazell said. “Their staff has done a great job at coaching them in all phases of the game. They take care of the football, and they don’t beat themselves. It’s a very similar team, in my opinion, to us.”

Why you should care?

The Flashes could clinch a berth in the MAC Championship Game with a win Saturday. It would be the team’s first appearance in the championship game.

At the end of practice Tuesday, Hazell gathered the players in a huddle and held up the championship trophy from the 1972 season, the only MAC title the team has ever won. Hazell said it is important for the players to remember what they’re playing for.

“You always want to remind those guys why we work so hard all year long,” Hazell said. “It’s been a long time since Kent State has held up a championship trophy, so I thought it would be good to remind them.”

The Flashes could be facing their biggest challenge of this season in the Falcons, who have won their last five games against MAC opponents. Kent State holds an eight-game overall winning streak this season and a current 11-game streak against MAC teams dating back to last season.

Junior running back Dri Archer and sophomore running back Trayion Durham will lead the Flashes offense against a Falcons that ranks 14th in the nation in rushing defense. Archer and Durham became the first backfield tandem to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season in team history.

Archer said while every MAC game is big for the team, this game holds more importance than the previous weeks.

“We’re both playing for MAC championships,” Archer said. “So, this is a do-or-die situation. They’re a great football team, and they’re going to come ready to play. We just have to block everything out and play our game.”

Archer has 1,043 yards this season, while Durham holds a slight lead on him with 1,059. Durham said there is a friendly competition going on between him and Archer about who can top whom.

“This is a game between me and Dri,” Durham said. “Whenever he does something good, I have to do something better.”

Durham has also scored 13 rushing touchdowns this season, which ties him with Julian Edelman, former Kent State quarterback, for the team’s single-season record. Archer is at a close second place with 12 rushing scores.

“We always have a competition going on every game,” Archer said. “We always try to see who gets more yards or who scores the most touchdowns. He’s up one on me in touchdowns, so I’ve got to have a big week this week.”

Competition aside, the players understand how crucial Saturday’s game is, as well as the implications it will have on the season.

“This is pretty much a rivalry game,” Durham said. “It’s going to be tough. It’s a MAC East championship game, and both teams [are] going to fight down to the last play. So it’s going to be big.”

Senior quarterback Spencer Keith said the importance of this game might be unique, but the preparation for it has been the same.

“We’ve played well the last couple weeks running the ball and making plays in the passing game,” Keith said. “Our defense has also been playing well. We’ve kept pretty much the same mindset as the other games. We don’t have to do anything extraordinary. Coach said at the beginning of the week to treat it like a normal game and go out there and play your best.”

Keith, a four-year starting quarterback for the Flashes, said ending his college career with a MAC Championship would be the best-case scenario.

“It would obviously be great to get a MAC title in my senior year, and that’s what we’re striving for,” Keith said.

Senior linebacker Luke Batton is also looking to end the season on the highest note possible, and he said this game is a chance for players and the team to leave behind a legacy.

“It’s definitely one of the biggest games in my career,” Batton said. “We could be a part of that special team that everyone talks about for the next four years. It’s an opportunity you can’t let squander.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].