The Kent State football team was picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference East Division in preseason polls.
After Saturday’s 38-3 loss at Western Michigan, the Flashes sealed a fourth-place finish in the division.
While Kent State’s offense stretched the field throughout the game, turnovers and the team’s poor red zone offense made the difference.
The Flashes recorded 400 yards of total offense with sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith throwing for 244 yards, but the signal caller’s mistakes were pivotal.
On Kent State’s first offensive drive of the game, Keith’s pass was intercepted by Broncos senior safety Mario Armstrong. Western Michigan capitalized three plays later when sophomore running back Brian Fields scored from two yards out.
Less than a minute into the second quarter, sophomore kicker Freddy Cortez lined up for a field goal at the Western Michigan two-yard line. Senior wide receiver Leneric Muldrow attempted a run off the snap and was tackled for a one-yard loss.
For the second consecutive week, Martin said the Flashes’ inability to not turn the ball over led to their defeat.
“The turnover margin was huge — as it has been every week — and we lost it again today,” Martin said. “Really you have to count the times you get stopped on the goal line as turnovers.”
With the Flashes down 14-3 and three minutes left in the first half, junior wide receiver Sam Kirkland ran 54 yards on a wide receiver reverse to put Kent State in position to score once again.
The drive ended on second down when Keith threw an interception on the three-yard line.
Martin said the team not taking advantage of opportunities in Bronco territory in the first half eliminated Kent State’s moral.
“We had to get some points on the board to get everyone excited about playing and motivated to have a chance,” Martin said. “When you get stopped down there it’s worse than a turnover. Our kids played hard, but didn’t have enough.”
On the other side of the ball, the Flashes’ defense allowed big play after big play. The nation’s third-ranked rush defense had two running backs rush for 100 yards.
Fields finished the game with 13 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown, while freshman running back Tevin Drake’s 102 yards and two touchdowns paced the Western Michigan attack.
The loss sets up Friday’s 11 a.m. game against first-place Ohio, while Martin said the offense’s struggles have to end for Kent State to finish the season with a victory.
“Obviously we were up and down the field, but didn’t get it in,” Martin said. “Our inability to be very effective on offense has really plagued us.”
Contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected]