‘Conference play is huge’

Nick Walton

Flashes to take on Miami in MAC opener

After missing an opportunity to beat a Bowl Championship Series team at home, the Kent State football team starts Mid-American Conference play tomorrow against Miami at Dix Stadium.

“Conference play is huge (because) that’s what makes or breaks a team,” junior safety Brian Lainhart said. “Coach (Martin) always says the first four games are preseason, and it truly is. You could go 0-4 in the preseason, (but when) you start your first game in conference play you’re 0-0.”

Going into the game against Iowa State, Kent State coach Doug Martin said it was a chance for the team to prove they could win without senior running back Eugene Jarvis.

After a 34-14 loss, the Flashes still have to prove they can win without Jarvis.

“(Our players) just fueled the fire that they are only Eugene Jarvis,” Martin said. “Until they go out and win without him, that’s what they’re going to be known as.”

Martin said after losing to the Cyclones, the pressure is on the players to perform.

“I’ve been very protective of players in my tenure here and very slow to put the pressure on them because I felt like they were always not handling pressure well,” Martin said. “That didn’t work, so we’re going the other way now. It just needs to be exposed there’ll be some guys that won’t play this week that played last week.”

Junior defensive end Monte Simmons said the focus is more about fixing internal problems instead of Miami.

“I understand why the coaches are so upset with us not being able to win games that we should win because we’re capable, but yet there’s some that don’t believe and some that do,” Simmons said. “Yes, we have Miami next, but we really need to concern ourselves about us and what we need to do to in order to beat all the teams we need to beat.”

One positive against Iowa State was the play of freshmen quarterback Spencer Keith, who completed 21 of 35 passes for two touchdowns and an interception. Keith will start again tomorrow, but Martin said the Miami defense will be tougher than Iowa State’s defense because of their tendency to blitz, move their defensive front and play man-to-man coverage.

“You don’t know how he’s going to handle all these different things,” Martin said. “If he continues to progress like he did, by all means I’m all for him.”

Martin said Keith is close to being the permanent starting quarterback, and sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan will have to compete for the starting job when he returns from an ankle injury.

“The great news about that is we’ll have two guys that will be competing against each other really hard and make both of them better,” Martin said. “I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it because I don’t know when (Morgan) is going to come back or what the circumstances are going to be.”

To help Keith, the Flashes will need to see more from the running game. Kent State rushed for 47 yards against Iowa State, making it difficult to convert long third downs.

“At times we block things really well, but it’s not anywhere near the consistency that we need it to be,” Martin said. “Our offense is somewhat disjointed right now, and a lot of that’s a product of your starting backfield being out.”

Flowers rushed for 45 yards on 21 carries against Iowa State.

After punt returners caused two of the Flashes’ five turnovers on Saturday, junior wide receiver Leneric Muldrow will now return punts for Kent State.

Miami (0-3; 0-1 MAC) enters the game winless after starting the season with losses against Kentucky, Boise State and Western Michigan.

Last season, the Flashes beat Miami 54-21, but Martin said it will be different without Jarvis and current NFL player Julian Edelman.

“If our football team wants to prove they can win without those guys, then we’ll have some success,” Martin said. “If they don’t, we won’t.”

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].