Flashes hope to take advantage of Ball State

Lance Lysowski

Kent State is looking to keep their Mid-American Conference title hopes alive and win back-to-back games for the first time this season against Ball State tomorrow.

The Flashes take on the Cardinals at Dix Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith, who completed 26-of-32 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns last week at Bowling Green, said the team has to continue to practice how they play in games if they want to be consistent.

“As long as we keep practicing how we are, as an offense really, that will keep going,” Keith said. “It all starts in practice and going full speed in practice because in the game you’re going to go full speed, and you don’t want the speed different then it is in practice. We just have to practice like it’s a game, and this week we’ve been doing that.”

The Flashes’ offense has the advantage of playing the fourth-worst defense in the conference this Saturday. The Cardinals have given up 423 yards per game, including 235 passing yards a game.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said while Keith’s performance at Bowling Green was his best of the season, the young quarterback has to be consistent for the Flashes to compete late in the season.

“Talking to Spencer, the thing I tried to make a point to him what he did is he let the game come to him,” Martin said. “He didn’t try to make things happen. He didn’t try to look people off and get wide receivers open. He just threw it to the open man and executed the offense.”

Keith did not throw an interception for just the fourth time in 17 career games. The sophomore has thrown eight interceptions this season against seven touchdowns, which have mostly come from throwing balls into tight coverage while attempting to make plays.

Martin said the sophomore’s early struggles with trying to make plays that are not there is typical for a young, athletic player.

“That usually happens to young players,” Martin said. “That happens to players with great athletic ability. Spencer has been just a little more frustrating. He’s intelligent enough. He knows when he’s done it wrong and he’s made a mistake. He doesn’t have a cannon arm to try to do those things. His game is all timing and knowing where to go and being accurate.”

While Ball State’s defense sits at the bottom half of the conference, the team’s running game brought them within seven points of beating MAC West leader Toledo last Saturday.

Sophomore running back Eric Williams leads a group of four running backs that make the Cardinals the third-best running team in the conference.

Wiliiams’ 447 yards on 80 attempts for three touchdowns leads the team, while the sophomore is also a threat in the kick-return game. The running back returned a 92-yard kickoff for a touchdown against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 16.

Martin said Ball State coach Stan Parrish is an integral part of the team’s offensive success, and the Flashes are expecting a tough Cardinals team.

“He’s a great offensive coach and he understands right now, the limitations of their quarterback, so he’s molded the offense to fit their quarterback,” Martin said. “They are really a running team and it’s a power running game, and it’s difficult to stop because they give you a lot of different blocking schemes.”

The Cardinals rely on their running game to cover for a weak-passing offense. Ball State has used two different quarterbacks this season, and most recently, freshman quarterback Keith Wenning was named the team’s starter.

Wenning has completed 54 percent of his passes for 758 yards and nine touchdowns in eight appearances. The team’s passing offense ranks last in the conference but has not hindered Ball State’s ability to score. The Cardinals average 21 points per game compared to Kent State’s 22.

Martin said the crowd on Josh Cribbs Day will be an advantage for Kent State in a must win game.

“We need some energy to come from the crowd for these players,” Martin said. “I don’t know if people appreciate what a big football game this is, but if we win this football game we have a chance to play Temple the next week for something really meaningful, so we’ve got to have this football game.”

You can contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected].