Flashes football hosts Ball State Saturday


The Kent State football team runs out to the field at Dix Stadium on Aug. 30 ready to battle against Towson. Kent State won the game 41-21. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Tim Dorst

For the first time in nearly a month, Kent State football will return to Dix Stadium for a pivotal Mid-American Conference matchup.

Two division-leading teams collide as the Flashes host the Ball State Falcons at noon Saturday in Dix Stadium.

After a 23-7 victory against Buffalo Sept. 19, Kent State started off its MAC schedule with a major statement. Now as the Flashes prepare for the Falcons, coach Darrell Hazell said he knows the team’s work has only just begun.

“This is going to be a big game for our program,” Hazell said. “[We] have a formidable task to handle Saturday, so we’re looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a great matchup.”

Kent State (2-1, 1-0 MAC) is tied with Miami University for first place in the MAC East division, while Ball State is tied with Toledo to lead the MAC West.

The Falcons (3-1, 1-0 MAC) are coming off a 31-27 win over the University of South Florida Sept. 22. A week before that, they defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 41-39 in an offensive shootout.

Hazell said the defense will have to stay sharp and apply pressure in order to slow down and contain the Falcons’ offense.

“Their quarterback is excellent,” Hazell said. “He’s very precise and quick with his throws. Obviously, we’re going to have to put pressure on him. We can’t allow him to feel comfortable and just sit back there and throw the ball.”

Through four games this season, Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning has totaled 861 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Wenning threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns last week against USF.

The Falcons balance their strong passing game with a successful running attack, led by sophomore running back Jahwan Edwards. Edwards has rushed for 430 yards so far this season.

Luke Batton, senior linebacker and defensive captain, said it’s important for the Flashes’ defense to limit Ball State’s running game and force the Falcons to throw.

“We have to stop the run first and make them one-dimensional,” Batton said. “Just make them throw the ball and make them beat us with the pass.”

Kent State’s defense allowed just 113 passing yards against the Buffalo Bulls, a notable improvement from the Flashes’ loss to the University of Kentucky Wildcats Sept. 8 — when Kent State gave up more than 500 yards of passing offense. Batton credits practice habits as a key factor in their defensive progress.

“We’re coming out here with more of a chip on our shoulder,” Batton said. “Coach said we were showing a bad attitude. So our practice habits have gotten a lot better. From the Towson game to Kentucky and then to Buffalo, we’ve definitely made a lot of strides.”

Sophomore defensive back Calvin Tiggle said the players always try to keep a positive attitude whether the team wins or loses.

“The coaches always tell us to learn to handle adversity and handle success,” Tiggle said. “It works both ways. You have to learn to stay positive and make it though the adversity.”

Last week in Buffalo, both senior Spencer Keith and junior David Fisher got significant playing time at quarterback. Hazell said he has yet to decide which player will start against Ball State, but he said both will play in the game.

The status of senior wide receiver Tyshon Goode is still unclear. Goode, who has been out since the beginning of training camp in August with a hamstring injury, participated in practice Tuesday and Wednesday in full pads.

Hazell said he will have a meeting with Goode Friday to determine if he will be ready to play.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].