‘It’s going to be a tremendous task’

Nick Walton

Flashes try to move up in MAC East standings

Behind impressive defensive efforts in the last two games, the Kent State football team is 3-1 in Mid-American Conference play for the fifth time in 50 years.

The Flashes will attempt to move up in the MAC East division this weekend against Western Michigan at home.

“We got to come back home and establish something here in Dix Stadium that we haven’t had in a while,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said. “We got to get a big win against one of the best teams in the (MAC) West.”

In a 20-11 win over Ohio, Kent State’s defense held the Bobcats to -9 yards rushing while recording a season-high seven sacks, including 5.5 from the defensive line.

Senior defensive lineman Kevin Hogan led the team with 2.5 sacks Saturday and was named the MAC East defensive player of the week.

“As a unit, the defensive line has been pretty successful this season,” Hogan said. “Really what you’ve seen is a lot of different people finding success and taking turns making plays, and this past week was my turn.”

With his performance against Ohio, Hogan is four sacks away from the Flashes’ all-time record. Despite how close he is to this accomplishment, Hogan said he isn’t thinking about the record.

“As an individual or as a player, you find your most success when you’re worried about winning,” Hogan said. “When I was playing this game against Ohio, the only thing I was thinking about is, ‘How are we going to win this game?’ We’re trying to make this a special year, and when you’re playing, you’re playing with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm and love for your teammates . honestly that’s what you’re thinking about.”

Martin said the defensive challenge this week is stopping Western Michigan senior quarterback Tim Hiller. Kent State’s pass defense is ranked ninth in the conference.

“We’re going to face an NFL quarterback, and we haven’t fared very well against quarterbacks that throw the ball exclusively,” Martin said. “This guy is a great passer, so it’s going to be a tremendous task for our defense to rise up and play better against the last two quarterbacks (who played at Dix Stadium).”

Hiller has thrown for 2,254 yards and 15 touchdown passes this season while leading the fourth-ranked offense in the conference.

Despite not scoring a touchdown until the fourth quarter, the Flashes’ offense was balanced against Ohio.

Freshman quarterback Spencer Keith completed 23-of-38 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore running back Jacquise “Speedy” Terry rushed for a career-high 110 yards on 31 carries.

“For us to execute the game plan that we went in there with offensively, we had to run the ball effectively because we’re taking shots downfield in the passing game,” Martin said. “Most pass plays we called was to stretch the field-versus-man coverage, and we told the quarterbacks, ‘If it’s 1-on-1, he’s open, throw it,’ and the receiver’s job was to go up and take the ball away.”

The wide receivers were effective in helping move the ball as sophomore wide receiver Sam Kirkland and freshman wide receiver Tyshon Goode combined for 173 yards on 14 receptions.

Martin said the offense’s play, despite adversity, has surprised him and exceeded his expectations.

“We’ve had so much to deal with losing (senior running back) Eugene (Jarvis) and playing a true freshman quarterback,” Martin said. “If you told me that we were going to be 3-1 in the conference at the beginning of the season and that was going to happen, I would’ve been shocked, but I think we’re probably ahead of where I expected us to be under those circumstances.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].