Kent State football looks for third straight win against EMU

Offensive+linemen+Phil+Huff+is+ready+to+pass+the+ball+at+Dix+Stadium+on+Sept.+29.+Kent+State+won+the+game+45-43.+Photo+by+BRIAN+SMITH.

Offensive linemen Phil Huff is ready to pass the ball at Dix Stadium on Sept. 29. Kent State won the game 45-43. Photo by BRIAN SMITH.

Tim Dorst

The Kent State Flashes are off to their best start in 25 years, winning three of their first four games this season and starting 2-0 against Mid-American Conference opponents. This weekend, the team is looking to continue its early success against another MAC foe.

The Flashes will head north to Ypsilanti, Mich., to take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

EMU has yet to win a game this season after four tries, but coach Darrell Hazell said there is much more about the Eagles to consider than just the record.

“They are a very physical team,” Hazell said. “They’ve played four pretty tough opponents. They’re going to come after us. It’s a team that you know will play extremely hard, and they have a lot of talent. So we need to be ready.”

The Eagles played the Michigan State Spartans last weekend, a game in which EMU led until late in the third quarter. The Spartans ultimately won 23-7, but the Eagles showed the ability to hang tough with a top-tier opponent.

Junior defensive back Luke Wollet said the one thing that jumps out to him about the Eagles is their willingness to fight until the final whistle sounds.

“They’re an extremely good football team that’s going to battle you for 60 minutes,” Wollet said. “They’ve got some tough kids on offense, so we’re going to have to stay focused. They’re not afraid of us, and we don’t expect them to be.”

Similar to the Flashes, the Eagles rely heavily on their running game to get their offense started and open up the opponent for play-action plays. EMU running back Javonti Green will attempt to lead the charge on the ground, while quarterback Alex Gillett will try to contribute in the running game as well.

The Flashes allowed 445 passing yards against Ball State last weekend, and senior linebacker C.J. Malauulu said the defense needs to improve communication to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“If we would’ve communicated better and been on the same page, (Ball State’s) quarterback wouldn’t have gotten that many yards,” Malauulu said. “He got a couple of free ones. A lot of it comes down to being more vocal and calling out what you see out there.”

The Eagles switch between Gillett and Tyler Benz at the quarterback position. Gillett, who has taken most of the snaps this season, has struggled at times, throwing six interceptions in four games.

On offense, the Flashes will continue trying to establish the run early in the game. Junior Dri Archer and sophomore Trayion Durham combined for 163 rushing yards last weekend against the Ball State Cardinals.

Archer, who has been one of Kent State’s best offensive weapons this season, made national news this week when he was added to the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll for his all-around performance against Ball State.

Archer currently leads the NCAA in average yards per kickoff return with 42.7, and Hazell said his team has a backup plan in case EMU decides to kick away from Archer.

Hazell also confirmed this week that senior quarterback Spencer Keith will be the team’s starter against the Eagles, while adding that David Fisher is still expected to play.

The coaching staff has said the team’s success starts in practice, and Malauulu said the players are extremely focused in practicing hard and making it to the next level.

“Everyone wants to do what we need to do to go from good to great,” Malauulu said. “It’s there. We all want it, and it’s definitely showing in practice.”

Keith said the coaches have told the team not to use the team’s winning record as an excuse to get complacent.

“We have to still work hard and get better,” Keith said. “We just need to come in every week focused on the next opponent and not [let] the future or the past affect your mindset for the next game.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].