Sports With Shook: Flashes in midst of golden season

Senior safety Luke Wollet blocks a Ball State offensive player during Kent’s 45-43 win over the Cardinals on September 29. Photo by Brian Smith.

Nick Shook

I’d like to take this moment of your time to deliver a public service announcement.

Attention Kent State students, faculty, employees, fans and college football enthusiasts in general: the Kent State Golden Flashes are one win away from bowl eligibility — and they haven’t even played their homecoming game yet.

The annual Homecoming celebration comes Saturday at 3:30 p.m., when the 5-1 Flashes play host to the Western Michigan Broncos at Dix Stadium. But before we get into that, let me explain just how rare this is at Kent State.

The Flashes haven’t won the Mid-American Conference since 1972. They appeared in their first and only bowl game that same year, a 21-18 loss to Tampa in the Tangerine Bowl.

When the 2012 schedule was released, my good friend Sean Barie and I sat down and played what many refer to as the “schedule game.”

We predicted the outcome of each game on the schedule, based purely off last season’s results and this season’s expectations. I had the Flashes doing as well as 7-5. Sean said he couldn’t see them finishing any better than 5-7.

The team is 5-1 right now.

Last season, the Flashes started the regular season at national power Alabama. They lost, 48-7. KSU lost five of its next six games, but the tides started to turn in favor of the Flashes. KSU ripped off four wins in its final five games of the season to finish 2011 with a 5-7 record and plenty to build on heading into this season.

The 2012 version of the Flashes features one major detail that was missing in 2011 — Dri Archer. The all-purpose, do-everything player has been the catalyst to Kent State’s fast start. Whether it’s running the ball, catching passes from Spencer Keith or David Fisher, or taking kicks back to the house time and time again, Archer alone is worth the price of admission. And he is one to be feared by opponents.

Heck, a Western Michigan “beat writer” for the Battle Creek Enquirer was so focused on (or scared of) Archer’s potential to light up the scoreboard again Saturday that he joined the ranks of Oregon newspapers and referred to the Flashes as the “Golden Eagles.”

Don’t believe me? I took a screen shot, just for proof.

Come on, man. I didn’t mistakenly refer to Western Michigan as the Stallions. They’re the Broncos. Kent State is the Golden Flashes. This isn’t something new. Get it together.

Nickname blunder or not, Kent State is indeed on a roll — and I’m calling on all Flashes fans to take notice, because this doesn’t happen often.

Homecoming is traditionally expected to be a near-sellout, thanks to the pilgrimage thousands of alumni are oh-so-eager to make each fall.

The home opener, a Thursday evening game versus Towson, drew a pretty substantial crowd, due in part to the reunion of the 1972 team. But when the Flashes returned home a month later, I was shocked; the announced attendance was over 21,000. I’ve been to games where an announced attendance of 9,000 was generous. This encourages me.

So I’m here to pass the encouragement back on to you. Come out to Dix Stadium Saturday afternoon to support the Golden Flashes, as they look to become bowl eligible at the earliest point in the season since Kent State was just a teachers’ school.

Start wearing your blue and gold proudly; your Flashes are tantalizingly close to making history. The Flashes are one win away from eligibility, and two or three more wins will essentially guarantee a bowl berth. You can bet I’ll be making the trip to the bowl game — I don’t care if it’s the Idaho Potato Bowl — I’ll be there.

The regular season comes to a close against rival Ohio University, who also happens to be currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 with a record of 7-0. They’re in the MAC East — the same division as Kent State. That season finale could be for all the MAC marbles ­— and for the Flashes, that’s about 40 years worth of marbles.

The stakes are high, but the potential is even higher. Take it all in, Kent State; seasons like this don’t come around too often.

Disagree with Nick? Remember the glory days of 1972? Tweet him @NickShookDKS, or email him [email protected]. Be sure to tune in to “Sports With Shook,” Black Squirrel Radio’s top sports-talk show, every Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. Follow the show @SportsWithShook.