Opinion: Frustration builds as Flashes drop to 1-4



Lance Lysowski

Lance Lysowski

Lance Lysowski is the sports editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected] and @llysowski.

Just when Kent State fans thought the team’s offense couldn’t get worse, it did on Saturday at Ohio.

Junior quarterback Spencer Keith threw three interceptions, the Flashes lost a fumble and had just 200 total yards.

The team’s struggles aren’t a surprise. Kent State ranks at the bottom in the Mid-American Conference in total offense and scoring offense.

The emergence of freshman tailbacks Traiyon Durham and Anthony Meray injected life into the struggling unit, but Keith continues to have problems finding consistency. Known for his throwing accuracy more than his throwing strength, Keith has been forced to throw the ball deep too much for the second season in a row.

With Keith’s strengths, the Flashes would ideally be running an offense that featured a short passing game while relying on their talented backfield to keep defenses guessing.

It seems that the team has lost its offensive identity.

Immediately following the Flashes’ blocked punt during Saturday’s game, Kent State offensive coordinator Brian Rock called for a running back pass. The receiver had separation from the corner, but senior running back Jacquise Terry’s pass fell short.

In defense of the play call, the receiver was open. But I can’t imagine relying on an inexperienced passer making a throw that was as difficult as the one Terry was forced to make.

The Flashes immediately lost momentum in a conference matchup on the road — something that any team cannot afford to do.

The most surprising part of this dreadful 2011 season is the play of the offensive line. Thought to have been the top blocking-unit in the conference entering the season, Kent State’s front-five have struggled heavily.

Keith was forced from the pocket on multiple occasions on Saturday and usually responded well. He tucked and ran for the team’s lone touchdown when the team’s receivers couldn’t find open space and the line could hold their blocks no longer.

The unit is basically the same as it was in 2010 besides a few position changes and one new starter. They are loaded with talent, but switching from one side to the other on the offensive line is a big adjustment.

While the offense continues to sputter, the defense has been playing like Kent State defenses of the past. The team has a swagger about them on that side of the ball, and it starts with sophomore defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix.

He may come off as soft-spoken, but Nix is the heart of that defense. The team lost tons of leadership in the offseason with the graduation of linebacker Cobrani Mixon and safety Brian Lainhart, but it seems like they have overcome the loss.

The one problem that will continue with this team is separation between the team’s offense and defense.

Kent State coach Darrell Hazell talked in detail about how the team was split in half when he arrived on campus. I’m not surprised at all. It makes sense.

The defense was one of the nation’s best in stopping the run last season, but the offense never could quite get it going. They would show signs of life against Bowling Green and Ball State, but it would not last.

When your defensive unit is on the field for most of the game, playing well and you still lose, you have problems. Frustrations build up and the finger pointing begins.

Hazell’s greatest challenge moving forward is keeping this team together. The first-year head coach is known for being a great motivator and leader, so the concern is not as great as it was in previous seasons.

With the defense surprising many with its strong play, the team needs to get the offense putting points on the board. It sounds simple, but past seasons show that it’s not.

With freshman quarterback Cedric McCloud back, Hazell could hand the ball to the raw, but heavily talented, signal caller. But I’m not expecting that to come anytime soon.

If this team is going to win in 2011, Keith will be the quarterback. But can the junior turn his career at Kent State around?

If the Flashes let him play to his strengths, I don’t see why not.