Kent State football looks to continue winning ways


Dri Archer, senior runningback, and Trayion Durham, sophomore runningback, celebrate after Archer scored a touchdown during the game against Ball State on Sept. 29. The Flashes won 45-43. Photo by NANCY URCHAK.

Tim Dorst

With the win last weekend again Eastern Michigan, the Kent State football team improved to 4-1 for the first time in 35 years. If the Flashes win again this weekend, they will accomplish something they haven’t done in almost four decades.

The Flashes travel to West Point, NY for a road showdown with the Army Black Knights noon Saturday at Michie Stadium.

A Kent State win would not only mark the Flashes’ first-ever victory against the Black Knights, but it would improve the Flashes’ record to 5-1 for the first time since 1940.

When it comes to explaining the Flashes’ success this season, coach Darrell Hazell spreads the credit around and points out specific areas where the Flashes are most successful.

“I think a lot of it comes from a balance of good backs, good offensive linemen and the fact that we’re making the throws we need to,” Hazell said. “We give teams a change of pace with Dri (Archer) and Trayion (Durham), but then we’re hitting some big passes and making plays. We’re a very balance team. It starts with the offensive line and works its way up from there.”

The Flashes, who are 3-0 in Mid-American Conference play, are averaging more than 32 points per game this season and ranked 30th in the nation in rushing yards per game. Kent State has won eight of its last 10 games dating back to last season.

The Black Knights run a unique style of offense that includes the triple option, a play that can be difficult to defend due to all the possible ways of attack. Hazell said he knows Army’s offense is very meticulous, so the Flashes’ defense will have to be prepared for anything.

“The whole premise for their offense is to get you displaced and circle the field with their schemes,” Hazell said. “They want you to bite on the first fake or the second fake and then pitch to the third guy. It’ll be a challenge, so we just have to do a good job making sure we’re disciplined and focused on our assignments.”

The Black Knights (1-4) earned its first victory of the season last week in a 34-31 win against Boston College. The Flashes will need to contain Army’s rushing attack, as the Black Knights lead all Division I schools in rushing yards with nearly 400 yards per game.

Senior cornerback Norman Wolfe reiterated Hazell’s statements, saying how important it is for the Flashes to maintain their focus on defense and knowing how to handle the Army offense.

“You need to stay focused on your guys, or else you might get put to sleep on defense,” Wolfe said. “You never know when they’re going to pass it or when they’re going to do a certain play, so you have to stay locked in for the unexpected.”

Wolfe, who has missed the last three games with a broken arm, said he’s completely healthy and will be available to play against Army.

On offense, the Flashes’ focus remains on the running game and the two-headed monster of sophomore Trayion Durham and junior Dri Archer. Archer continues to be one of the most versatile players in college football, leading the NCAA in average all-purpose yards per game with 230.8.

Durham’s second season with the Flashes is already looking better than his first, as Durham is leading the team in rushing yards with 460. Durham also earned MAC East offensive player of the week honors after his 126-yard rushing performance against Eastern Michigan last weekend.

“That’s my first award since I’ve been here,” Durham said. “It always feels good to win something like that. I’m just going to build off of that and hope I get more.”

Durham said one of his biggest personal improvements from last season is his attitude coming to practice every day and working hard.

“I hated practice. I would end up taking plays off in the games. Now I love practice,” Durham said. “I treat it like a game and go hard every play. If I see someone slacking off, I tell them to pick it up. I just love practice and the game a lot more.”

Saturday is Army’s homecoming, but the game will also be a little homecoming for Hazell, who worked as a wide receivers coach for the Black Knights in 1997 and 1998.

“I’m looking forward to going back,” Hazell said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the people I know who are still working there. I kick around the memories in my mind, so it’ll definitely be a good trip back.”

From the atmosphere of the stadium to the pregame ceremonies, Hazell had a lot of praise for the team as well as the academy as a whole.

“It’s one of the greatest places to place a football game,” Hazell said. “From the cadets coming in and all the brass that’s going to be there, it’s going to be a great venue. It’s also homecoming, so the crowd is going to be electric. We’re really excited about playing there Saturday.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].