Kitchen sidelined with dislocated elbow

AJ Atkinson

Though the Southern Alabama vs. Kent State game got a little more exciting than many Flashes fans liked, many positives can be taken out of the game. Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell addressed some of these positives in his weekly Monday press conference.

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Players who stood out

One player who may not have stood out statistically but made big plays for the Flashes was junior quarterback Spencer Keith. After struggling in his first three games, Keith regained some confidence in last Saturday’s game.

“He didn’t turn the ball over, which was huge for his confidence,” Hazell said. “He hit some guys who were wide open and guys who were covered. The thing I liked what he did is he pulled it down a couple times and ran with it and got us some big yards running with the football. If he can do that, especially if teams are going to man-to-man coverage — nobody ever accounts for the quarterback in man-to-man coverage — that’s huge. I was very impressed after watching the film of Spencer’s performance.”

Hazell said two defensive backs, freshman Calvin Tiggle and sophomore Luke Wollet, stood out to him on defense. Tiggle assisted in six tackles and recovered a fumble and returned it 27 yards. Wollet was named Mid-American Conference East Player of the Week, intercepting two passes and making eight tackles.

“Wollet has got a great eye for the football,” Hazell said. “He backpedals and scans the field. He has a great break on the ball, and he has great ball skills to take it away from them. He had an exceptional game. He also came up and supported the run well. Some of those times you don’t see those things, but he came up and took some shots on some guys and played downhill in the run game.”

Senior defensive back Josh Pleasant talked about how much motivation the team receives by Tiggle’s style of play.

“He comes down and hits some guys so hard, it sparks the whole defense,” Pleasant said. “When you hear that crack of the helmets, you just see Tiggle getting up and shaking his head. You know that he just did something and it just sends life to the team. Him and (Wollet) play with a lot of fire, and it really helps this defense.”

Team energy after victory

Fans knew how important it was for the Flashes to win Saturday. Starting 0-4 is always rough, but starting 0-4 before entering conference play would be even more disheartening.

Hazell said what he enjoyed most was seeing his guys enjoy playing football. The team got the lead early and had the confidence he looked for all season.

“Just the energy level was way up after making good plays,” Hazell said. “Guys chest bumping and high fiving each other after making a good play. I saw that for the first time on this football team, which was good to see.”

Facing the Ohio Bobcats again after spoiling their season last year

Last season, Ohio was a win away from guaranteeing a spot to compete for the MAC Championship. All the team had to do was beat Kent State. What happened? The Flashes pulled off a 28-6 victory over the Bobcats. The Bobcats fell short from competing for the MAC Championship.

Kent State players and Hazell are sure this will make Saturday’s rematch between the two teams more interesting.

“I think if I were (Ohio), that’s very disappointing because they were ready to go to the MAC Championship, and we beat them when they were in a critical situation,” Pleasant said. “I’m sure that leaves a bad taste in their mouth. I’m sure them knowing that has happened in the past, they’re going to prepare just as hard. They’re going to come out hard and fast and fight blow for blow in this game. Hopefully we’ll come out on top.”

Hazell said his main attention is preparing for the game, because he said once the game starts, there is not any past games you think about but the one at hand. This game means a lot to the Flashes, whose goal is to win the MAC Championship.

“It’s hard to lose one or two game in the conference and win the conference championship, so every game is critical,” Hazell said.

An inside look at Ohio

Hazell guaranteed Saturday’s game in Athens would be a fight. He said he was sure the Bobcats’ coach Frank Solich will have the team well prepared for the Flashes.

The Flashes’ main concern will be staying disciplined and controlling quarterback Tyler Tettleton. Tettleton with both his arm and his legs. The 5-foot-11-inch quarterback has 74 completions on 118 attempts, 10 touchdowns and one interception. He has also rushed for 90 yards on 30 carries.

Pleasant said what he and his defensive backs must keep in mind is staying with their men and not leaving too soon to attack the scrambling Tettleton.

The Flashes’ defense has struggled this season with scrambling quarterbacks and offenses that involve the option. Hazell said his men will be ready.

“Our defense will be challenged very much so on Saturday,” Hazell said. “(Ohio is) a well-coached football team. Coach Solich will have them fired up and ready to go. It’ll be an exciting atmosphere down in Athens this Saturday.”

Kickoff between Kent State and Ohio is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. in Athens.

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Saturday’s win came with a huge loss. Kent State’s senior nose guard Ishmaa’ily Kitchen dislocated his elbow in the third quarter of Kent State’s 33-25 win over Southern Alabama.

Kent State coach Darrell Hazell announced in Monday’s press conference the 6-foot-3-inch, 334-pound defensive linemen would be out for at least three weeks.

“Ish was playing exceptionally well,” Hazell said. “He’s a big figure inside and commands the double team. Really reduces those running lanes inside. It’s a loss for sure because he’s a good player, but when these situations happen, guys have to step up.”

Hazell said the team will move junior defensive lineman Dana Brown Jr. into the nose guard position to fill the hole Kitchen left. Brown, 6- foot-1-inch 281 pounds, is no where near the size of Kitchen, but Hazell has full confidence the junior will do fine.

“Dana has done a good job for us so far,” Hazell said. “He’s very active inside. He has his own unique technique that he uses that shows up every day on the practice film. He’s done a great job for us as a back up guy. He’ll do a good job for us.”

Hazell said he did not believe this would cause more double teaming problems for sophomore defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix, for Nix is already double teamed on every play.

Hazell said Kitchen will be on the bike during practice and doing everything he can to stay in shape so that when his elbow is healed, he can return to the field and resume his senior season.

Contact AJ Atkinson at [email protected].