Flashes finish regular season with perfect MAC record


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

Darrell Hazell recalled a time before the season started during which he had a strong feeling that the team could do great things.

“When I really got a gut feeling was our first day of camp on Aug. 2 this year,” Hazell said. “We turned the lights off, and we put on a tape, trying to do some visualization. We turned the lights back on, and there was a sense at that point in time that came across me that these guys get it.”

From the beginning of training camp, coach Hazell has been stressing the importance of each Mid-American Conference game, and the players have stayed focused on their list of goals that included a perfect MAC record and a MAC Championship.

After Friday’s game, the Flashes are halfway there.

Kent State records this season

11 wins this season: most in team history

10-game winning streak: longest in team history

Perfect 8-0 MAC record for first time in team history

Defeated a ranked opponent (Rutgers) for first time ever

Dri Archer: set single season records for total TDs (21) and rushing avg. (9.69)

Freddy Cortez: became Kent State all-time scorer, passing Josh Cribbs

Kent State cruised past the Ohio Bobcats 28-6 Friday afternoon at Dix Stadium, capping off the regular season with an 8-0 record against MAC teams one week before heading to Detroit for the MAC Championship game.

The Flashes finished their regular season schedule with an overall record of 11-1, making this the best season in team history. The team is looking to finish off its historic year with its first MAC title and bowl game appearance in 40 years.

Hazell pointed to the maturity of the players when explaining the team’s success and ability to perform well under pressure.

“It’s funny to watch this team all season long,” Hazell said. “They’re very mature. They don’t flinch, they don’t panic, and they feed so well off of each other. I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons why.”

Friday’s game against Ohio was Senior Day, and the Flashes’ 19 seniors stepped onto the turf of Dix Stadium for the final time. Hazell said he couldn’t be more proud of the seniors on the squad.

“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.”

While Kent State’s offense didn’t play as strongly Friday as in previous games, the performance of the defense more than made up for it. The Flashes sacked Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton eight times, forced four fumbles and came up with two turnovers while keeping the Ohio offense out of the end zone all afternoon.

Senior linebacker C.J. Malauulu stated the importance of the defense 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.”

Junior safety Luke Wollet got involved in the game early, recovering a fumble in the first quarter and returning it 50 yards for a touchdown to give the Flashes the first lead. The Flashes extended that lead later in the quarter when sophomore running back Trayion Durham spun off of a tackler and rumbled for a 15-yard touchdown run, his 14th of the season.

Malauulu, who forced a fumble earlier in the game, picked off a pass from Tettleton and ran it back 33 yards before diving into the end zone for a touchdown. The Flashes lead 21-3 at the end of the first quarter.

Game Stats

Ohio Kent State
Passing Yards 232 170
Rushing Yards 107 207
Totals Yards 339 377
First Downs 22 15
Sacks 0 8

The Bobcats put points on the scored in the form of two field goals, a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 41-yarder in the second quarter. That was Ohio’s only means of scoring in the game as the Bobcats were stifled by Kent’s defense for most of the day.

“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.”

After a scoreless third quarter for both teams, senior quarterback Spencer Keith connected with fellow senior Eric Adeyemi on 24-yard pass play for touchdown in the fourth quarter, essentially putting the game out of reach for the Bobcats.

Keith said he had always hoped to be able 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.”

The Flashes will now begin to prepare for the MAC Championship game against Northern Illinois, Friday at Ford Field in Detroit. Hazell said he’s proud of what the team has accomplished, but he knows the Flashes still have work to do.

“The biggest thing for me right now is how proud I am of this football team,” Hazell said. “All the players know to keep battling no matter what the circumstance. They always find a way to come out on the right side, and that says a lot about their character. This is obviously a big week coming up, so we’ll enjoy this one and get right back to work.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].