Football hopes to tie for division lead by defeating Ohio Saturday

Nick Walton

Flashes look for their second win in a row

The Kent State football team will look to match last season’s win total and stay in contention for the Mid-American Conference against Ohio this weekend.

After improving their conference record with a win over Eastern Michigan, the Flashes (3-4, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) will play the Bobcats (5-2, 3-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Athens for a chance to tie the lead for the MAC East.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said the opportunity to tie at the top of the division is something the team should embrace.

“That’s why you come to play college football, that’s why you coach, that’s why we’ve worked this hard and here it is,” Martin said. “We had a great opportunity (against) Bowling Green that we let get away. Well, we’ve worked ourselves right back into it again. We’ve got a fantastic opportunity here this week against a great football team.”

Even though this is one of the few times in recent years Kent State has been in contention near the end of October, Martin said he doesn’t feel any pressure being in this situation. Martin said the coaching staff learned from the 2006 season when the Flashes started 4-0 in the MAC but failed to win the division.

“That 2006 team started looking down the line about ‘Well, this could happen, that could happen,'” Martin said. “Well, you don’t control any of that. All you control is Ohio this week and going to practice tomorrow.”

Junior running back Anthony Bowman said he is embracing his opportunity to be part of a group with the chance to turn the program around.

“I’m glad to be a part of this team because every game is looked at as a MAC championship,” Bowman said. “Just to be playing late into the season for something more than just pride is a good feeling.”

He is third in kick return average in the conference with a 24.6-yard average per return. Bowman’s total of 590 yards returning kicks, including a 92-yard touchdown return against Miami, leads the conference.

Junior safety Brian Lainhart said the improvement of special teams this season has helped provide energy for the rest of the team.

“Anthony will return a kick 50-some yards and he’ll let the other team know about it,” Lainhart said. “He’ll go out and make a big hit on special teams kickoff and he’ll let you know about it. Me, (junior linebacker) Cobrani Mixon and (senior defensive lineman) Aaron Hull are (pumped).”

Against Eastern Michigan, Kent State’s defense allowed six points in the game a week after losing a 19-point fourth quarter lead to Bowling Green. The key point in the game for the Flashes defensively was a goal-line stop in the second quarter.

“That was a big character check the way we bounced back,” Lainhart said. “I know we played atrocious defensively in the second half of the (Bowling Green) game. It could have been the same thing but we put our foot down and let the Bowling Green game go.”

Martin said the offense has to deal with Ohio’s defensive coverage.

“They are very unique in our conference in that they probably play more man coverage than any team in our league, and they’re really good at it,” Martin said. “They play very aggressively in the secondary. They contest every throw. (The) quarterback has got to be very accurate and very sharp.”

To combat Ohio’s defense, Martin said it will be important to throw deep passes and keep attacking the secondary even if the completion percentage isn’t high.

“This will be a good test for (freshman quarterback) Spencer (Keith),” Martin said. “He’s going to have to not only put us in the right play at times, but he’s got to be very accurate, and his arm strength will be tested in this game.”

After playing a winless Eastern Michigan last week, Lainhart said the intensity is just as high heading into the Ohio game.

“All week long, everybody talked about Eastern (Michigan) and now it’s the same thing this week,” Lainhart said. “If we can just come out with the emotion and intensity we did last week, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].