Flashes look to turn heads in football

Lance Lysowski

The Flashes defeated the Bobcats, while not allowing an offensive touchdown. Although the Bobcats went on to appear in the Mid-American Conference Championship and the Flashes failed to reach a bowl game for the 37th consecutive season, Mixon said the victory over Ohio displayed the Flashes’ evolution over time.

“We really limited them offensively,” said Mixon, who led the team last season with 108 tackles. “Defensively we beat up on them; our offense scored points on them and they went to the MAC Championship. That was the moment for me that let us know that we had a shot.”


2009 Record: 5-7 (4-4, 4th in MAC East)

Key Returner: Sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith. Keith is already being tabbed as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. His freshman year included many growing pains (11 interceptions in 10 games), but with a plethora of talent surrounding the young signal caller, Keith is primed to build on his 2,147 passing yards and 14 touchdowns from last season.

Key Departure: Defensive lineman Kevin Hogan. Hogan will go down as one of the best at his position in Kent State football history. Although the Flashes return Monte Simmons and senior nose guard Quinton Rainey up front, Hogan’s 4.5 sacks will be missed.

Breakout Player: Freshman defensive back Dylan Farrington. Farrington has been the talk of Kent State coach Doug Martin since the 6-foot cornerback committed to the Flashes. Farrington was named one of the top-50 prep school players last season and will push starting junior cornerbacks Josh Pleasant and Norman Wolfe for playing time.

2010 Prospects: The Flashes are finally in position to compete not only this year, but for years to come. With a young but experienced offense, Kent State can match up with any team in the conference. The defense needs to show more consistency and the offensive line needs to keep Keith off his back. But if the Flashes can do that, this will be the year Kent State turns the corner.

Although Kent State’s defense ranked sixth in the MAC last season, it features three all-conference playmakers in Mixon, senior safety Brian Lainhart and senior defensive end Monte Simmons. Kent State coach Doug Martin said the experience and talent on defense is phenomenal, but inconsistent play plagued the group last season.

“At times last year, we played incredible defense, but then we had lapses where we didn’t like the Bowling Green game,” Martin said. “The real challenge for the defense is can they play 12 games the same way.”

Senior safety Lainhart finished second on the team with 87 tackles and first with seven interceptions. Simmons was a second team All-MAC selection with a team-leading eight sacks. The senior defensive end said the group has the responsibility and opportunity to change the public perception of Kent State football.

“I think our main goal as a whole team is to be a different Kent State and be seen differently than we have been,” Simmons said. “We have the opportunity to change it. I’m not saying we didn’t have that opportunity every other year. You want it more. There’s something deep inside you that says you have that drive to get it. There’s a lot of build up.”

The Flashes took their first step toward changing their image last season by finishing with a record of 5-7 and displaying explosiveness not only on defense, but on offense as well.

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith returns this year to orchestrate the Flashes’ west coast offense and has the advantage of returning seven other starters around him, including sophomore receiver Tyshon Goode and a trio of talented running backs in junior Jacquise “Speedy” Terry, sophomore Dri Archer and sixth-year senior Eugene Jarvis.

Jarvis, who rushed for 1,669 yards as a sophomore, received a rare sixth year from the NCAA after he missed all but one game last season from lacerating his kidney against Boston College.

Martin said that the return of Jarvis helps not only in the locker room with the senior’s leadership, but allows the Flashes to use Terry and Archer in unorthodox ways.

“It enables us to have running backs we have to move around a little bit more,” Martin said. “Dri Archer and Jacquise Terry can both easily move out to receiver so we are going to incorporate some things to get them in the game, but they may or may not be a running back.”

While the team does have unanswered questions regarding second-team players, Lainhart said this may be the year Kent State football turns from laughing stock to consistent contender.

“In the MAC, there’s so much parity,” Lainhart said, “and I think we’re going to get that done this year which will separate us from teams of the past.”

Contact sports reporter Lance Lysowski at [email protected].