Temple knocks Flashes out cold

Lance Lysowski

Senior defensive end Monte’ Simmons had motivational words for his teammates following Kent State’s disappointing loss to Temple on Saturday.

The 28-10 loss dropped the Flashes out of the Mid-American Conference East Division race, but if the team can win their three remaining games, they will earn bowl eligibility.

Simmons said for this team to earn a chance at playing in the postseason, each player in the locker room must evaluate himself.

“It’s based on how they feel in their heart,” Simmons said. “If their heart is in it to go for it, if not… I know I’m in it for the long shot. This crushes me, but I know that I have three games left and that determines the end of my season. This team that I love… my heart is in it. I put my heart on the line. They have to challenge their integrity. What are they going to do? As of right now, I know that we are willing and able.”

Kent State coach Doug Martin also challenged his players following the team’s first loss at home this season.

“That’s a setback, but we’ve got three games left, and this could be a good football team and a bowl team if they’re willing to go there,” Martin said. “We’ll see what they’re willing to do.”

The Flashes’ defensive game plan focused on stopping a Temple running game led by sophomore running backs Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown. While Kent State allowed just 2.1 yards per carry — maintaining the rush defense’s No. 1 national ranking — Temple coach Al Golden’s game plan took advantage of Kent State’s persistence to stop the run.

Owls sophomore quarterback Mike Gerardi faked hand-offs to his running backs throughout the game and threw to a receiving corps that faced one-on-one coverage from the Flashes.

Simmons, who recorded 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on Gerardi, was one of few defensive players for Kent State that put pressure on the young signal caller.

The result was a career day for Gerardi.

The sophomore threw for 368 yards, two touchdowns and ran for another. Gerardi’s helped the Temple offense complete seven of 14 third-down conversions, and overcame long fields because of offensive penalties.

Martin said the Owls’ size advantage and the Flashes’ inability to capitalize on Temple mishaps, led to the critical loss.

“They out played us today, really in every phase,” Martin said. “It was really hard for us to match up, I think, with their size and strength. As the game went on, that became pretty evident and we just didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had early. We caused some turnovers and made some things happen early and didn’t capitalize on that.”

After excelling the past two games, Kent State’s offense struggled against the Owls’ defense. The Flashes failed to capitalize on two red zone opportunities early in the first quarter, coming out with just one field goal from sophomore kicker Freddy Cortez.

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith and the offense failed to convert a third-down until the third quarter, and Keith found himself lying on the turf throughout the game.

Temple’s defensive line displayed its superior size against Kent State’s pass protection. Junior defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who was named to the 2010 Outland Trophy watch list, pressured Keith out of the pocket throughout the game.

Wilkerson led the Owls with six tackles and sacked Keith three times.

Martin said the disappointing play of the offense reverberates the issues the team has seen throughout the season, and the Flashes must correct the problem moving forward.

“We were in third and long so many times and whether it was penalties or sacks or whatever it was,” Martin said. “That’s kind of been our problem all year long, offensively. We were well over 50 percent on third downs when it is third and four or six. When you get in third and seven to extra, we’re about 15 percent, and that’s where we were all day. It’s difficult to convert, especially when you’re playing a good defensive football team like we were today.”

You can contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected].