Bobcats quarterback poses matchup issue for Flashes

Freshman running back Anthony Meray is rushed out of bounds during the Flashes victory Saturday over South Alabama, 33-25. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Freshman running back Anthony Meray is rushed out of bounds during the Flashes victory Saturday over South Alabama, 33-25. Photo by Matt Hafley.

AJ Atkinson

Kent State football’s defense has looked putrid against scrambling quarterbacks. Kansas State’s Collin Klein controlled much of the game with his legs, and South Alabama’s 25-point second-half comeback attempt had much to do with quarterback C.J. Bennett’s ability to extend plays.

The Flashes will have to overcome that fault this Saturday, as their first conference opponent, Ohio, holds one of the best offenses and scrambling quarterbacks in the Mid-American Conference.

Ohio’s standout quarterback, Tyler Tettleton, is one of the many playmakers on the Bobcats’ offense. The 5-foot-11-inch, 198-pound quarterback has rushed for 90 yards on 30 carries and has completed 73 of 117 passing attempts for 910 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception in an offense that averages 36 points per game.

Brian George, Kent State defensive linemen coach, said there is no argument: The Flashes have struggled against a running quarterback. The defense allowed Kansas State to run for 219 yards that included two rushing touchdowns on 42 carries.

“You try to prepare for the quarterback run as best you can,” George said. “The thing that always becomes the issue anytime there is a quarterback that can run is the very simple fact the offense is able to even up with the defense as far as blockers for defenders.”

George said the team has made adjustments to prepare for Tettleton’s athleticism and style of play, but was unable to say what those changes are. He said the key to Saturday’s success will be making big hits and not allowing big plays — a problem they had last weekend against South Alabama.

“We have to improve on the big hits and make them earn every point that they get,” George said. “When you do that, you allow your offense to make a mistake.”

Ohio’s wide receivers are not any less talented than Tettleton. Hazell said the Kent State secondary must keep an eye on Tettleton’s favorite receiver, senior Lavon Brazill. Brazill leads the team with 16 receptions, 191 yards and four touchdowns.

After allowing South Alabama to gain huge yardage on some long passing plays, the Flashes will have to make adjustments this weekend. The Flashes’ secondary allowed long pass receptions of 61, 42 and 37 yards.

Comparatively, the Flashes’ longest pass reception was 18 yards to senior wide receiver Sam Kirkland.

The Bobcats are eagerly awaiting Kent State’s arrival. The Flashes’ 28-6 victory over them last year kicked the Bobcats out of their run for the MAC Championship.

However, George said more is on the line for this game than the Bobcats seeking revenge.

“It’s a conference rivalry that is important for us if we want to be competing for a conference championship,” George said. “This is one of the teams that we need to get through to get to that point. I think (Ohio) is hearing about (what happened last year) this week because it took them out of the hunt last year, but I think for both teams it’s a conference game.”

Kickoff between the two conference rivals is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Athens.

“We have to keep the ball in front of us whether it’s in the run game or the passing game and making them earn everything,” George said. “If we can do that, we’ll come out of the game feeling good.”

Contact AJ Atkinson at [email protected] and @aj_atkinson.