Kent State football faces Northern Illinois in MAC Championship game


Junior Defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix sacks Ohio’s quarterback Tyler Tettleton during Kent’s 28-6 win over the Bobcats on Nov. 23, 2012. The Flashes will face Northern Illinois for the Mid American Conference championship game in Detroit on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. Photo by MATT HAFLEY.

Tim Dorst

Before the 2012 season began, the Kent State football team had one very specific goal that carried throughout the entire season: winning a Mid-American Conference championship.

Now the Flashes, winners of the MAC East division with a perfect conference record, have one shot at making history when they take on the Northern Illinois Huskies in the MAC Championship game Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich.

Stat comparisons


Spencer Keith (Kent): 151-264, 1,674 yards, 11 TDs, 7 INTs

David Fisher (Kent): 14-23, 230 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Jordan Lynch (NIU): 203-319. 2,750 yards, 23 TDs, 4 INTs

Matt McIntosh (NIU): 7-13, 57 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTS


Dri Archer (Kent): 138 carries, 1,337 yards, 9.7 ypc, 14 TDs

Trayion Durham (Kent): 236 carries, 1,176 yards, 5.0 ypc, 14 TDs

Jordan Lynch (NIU): 235 carries, 1,611 yards, 6.9 ypc, 16 TDs

Leighton Settle (NIU): 101 carries, 460 yards, 4.5 ypc, 5 TDs


Dri Archer (Kent): 30 catches, 458 yards, 4 TDs

Josh Boyle (Kent) 27 catches, 327 yards, 3 TDs

Martel Moore (NIU): 67 catches, 1,015 yards, 11 TDs

Tommylee Lewis (NIU): 40 catches, 474 yards, 5 TDs

This will be the first time the Flashes will compete in the conference championship game, which was first played in 1997 when the conference was split into two divisions. A win for the Flashes would give them their first MAC championship trophy in 40 years.

Head coach Darrell Hazell said he knows this is a huge game for the team and the university, and he can feel the excitement going on around the area in anticipation of this game.

“When you run off 10 straight games like we have and [are] playing as well as we are right now, I think there’s excitement not only here on campus but in the community and throughout Northeast Ohio,” Hazell said. “Even across the country. You’re getting emails from people all over the country who are just so elated with the success that the football program is having right now.”

The Flashes’ 2012 season has been the best in program history, breaking the team record for single-season wins with 11 and the first-ever 8-0 record against MAC teams. The current 10-game winning streak is also the longest in team history.

In order to complete the road to the championship, the Flashes will have to get past an NIU team with an identical record and nearly identical success. The Huskies have won 11 games in a row with their only loss being against Iowa at the beginning of the season.

“This is going to be a great challenge for us,” Hazell said. “There are two good football teams that are going to be on the football field, and it’ll be one of those games that comes down to the last couple of seconds in the game.”

One of the main focuses for Kent State’s defense will be on how to contain NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch has shown the ability to be multidimensional this season, compiling more than 2,700 passing yards as well as 1,600 rushing yards. Hazell said Lynch is a phenomenal player and the Flashes will have their hands full with him.

“He creates all kinds of plays all over the field,” Hazell said. “When you play a guy like that who pulls it down and scrambles around, you’ve got to stay in coverage, and you have to have tremendous eye discipline. So we have to do a good job at staying extremely disciplined with our eyes.”

While Lynch has put up some eye-popping numbers this season for the Huskies, senior linebacker Luke Batton said the defensive players can’t afford to let Lynch’s stats intimidate them.

“You just have to focus on doing your job,” Batton said. “Other teams get all caught up in the eye candy of what the offense is doing instead of doing their job. They’re out of position, and Jordan Lynch and their offense explodes on that. You have to keep your eyes focus and do your job.”

The Huskies defeated the Flashes 40-10 at NIU last season. Since that loss, the Flashes have won 15 of their last 18 games, completely changing the outlook of this team.

Senior kicker Freddy Cortez said he has been waiting four years for the chance to play in a championship game like this, and he said he is going to make the most of this opportunity.

Offensive/Defensive line comparisons

Kent State

Offensive line: Average weight of 303.4 lbs

Defensive line: Average weight of 263.3 lbs.

Northern Illinois

Offensive line: Average weight of 295.6 lbs.

Defensive line: Average weight of 264.3 lbs.

“Those first three years were just big down years for us,” Cortez said. “But seeing how everybody was so committed and so dedicated over the summer, I knew something was going to happen this year. I didn’t know it was going to be this special, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Cortez said if the game comes down to the wire and relies on one final kick, he would be more than ready.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Cortez said. “I have a mindset going in that it’s coming down to a field goal. That’s how I’m going to prepare. I’m going to do everything I can to contribute, and if they call my number at the end of the game, I’m going to go out there and execute.”

This will be NIU’s third-straight appearance in the MAC Championship, and the Huskies will be looking for back-to-back MAC Championship game victories. The Huskies defeated Ohio in last season’s MAC Championship 23-20. With Kent State preparing to play in a new environment against a team who has been there, Hazell said he feels his team will prepare just the same.

“I don’t know if [the Huskies] are going to have an advantage or disadvantage for playing there a third straight year or not,” Hazell said. “All I know is that our football team this year has been extremely mature when we jumped on the bus. Our preparation has been almost flawless in terms of understanding all the things that go into winning a tough football game on the road. Hopefully we can continue that one more time here.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].