Hazell says Golden Flashes are prepared to play Alabama

AJ Atkinson

Press Conference

KentWired Video

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Kent State football coach Darrell Hazell addressed the media Monday afternoon not about playing Alabama but about beating the Associated Press’s second-ranked Crimson Tide.

As many sports fans view the Flashes’ season opener against Alabama as only a money-maker, Hazell has his team preparing for a possible upset — Kent State received a combined $1.2 million from Alabama and Purdue for this game.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Hazell said in his opening press statement. “We’re excited to fly down to Tuscaloosa on Friday. I know (the team) is ready to go, and they are excited to get down there to find out what this 2011 team is all about.”

Making no predictions that his team would win, the first-year coach talked about what his team needs to do in order to beat the Crimson Tide Saturday.

Hazell said a big factor when playing Alabama will be how the players and coaches handle the adversity they are sure to face.

“They’re going to make plays on us early,” Hazell said. “They’re going to stop us on offense. To think it’s not going to happen is unrealistic. But how we handle those situations and move forward from those situations will determine how the game unfolds throughout the rest of the quarters.”

One key strategy that determines much of the Flashes’ success is protecting the quarterback, junior Spencer Keith, from one of the best defenses in the country. Alabama attacks with senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw and senior defensive lineman Josh Chapman, two players Hazell considers the best defensemen in the country.

“Those guys are disruptive, they’re physical, and they can take a game over if you allow them to,” Hazell said. “We can’t allow them to do those things. So we’re going to do some things without giving away the game plan, to try and neutralize those players.”

A position to keep an eye on is the running back position for Kent State. With senior running back Jacquise Terry recovering from a shoulder injury, his time in Saturday’s game will be limited. The majority of the plays will be carried out by freshmen running backs Anthony Meray and Trayion Durham.

“The one thing that concerns us is that Alabama blitzes a lot,” Hazell said. “A lot of six-man pressures, and our guys have to be keyed into these pressures. That’s where you concern yourself with these freshmen tailback. But they’re good with the ball in their hands and with the passing game, so we have to be able to play those guys. Other than that at the running back position, we’re good around the board.”

Hazell said he believes his players will come off the bus Saturday ready to play.

“They are going to have a little bit of swagger,” Hazell said. “I think they will be confident. There is going to be some young guys who have never played a college football game that will be extremely nervous, but probably a little oblivious, which may help them as well. It’ll be interesting because once it’s kicked off, you just have to execute. But still, they are a good football team, and they are going to make some plays. It’s how we handle those situations.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 11:21 a.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Alabama. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network and streamed online at ESPN3.

Contact AJ Atkinson at [email protected].