Kent State hoping for rebound after bye

Thomas Gallick

The Kent State football team came into this season hoping for a Mid-American Conference championship.

Instead, the team goes into Saturday’s game at Miami with a 1-6 record, a baseball player trying out at kicker and senior quarterback Julian Edelman possibly filling holes on special teams.

Obviously, Kent State coach Doug Martin and his players are not having the season they envisioned at the beginning of the year.

Martin said the team lost 26-19 on Oct. 11, to Ohio and 30-27 in double overtime to Akron the week before because some players are “afraid” of high-pressure situations.

“Those last two football games, we’re in a position to win both those games,” Martin said. “In the second half, everybody turns it down (and doesn’t) want to make a play, from the kicker right on down the line. How can you go out and dominate those games in the first half, and then all the sudden in the second half you can’t do it?”

Martin was referring to special teams mistakes that cost the Flashes chances to win their last two home games.

Junior kicker Nate Reed missed an extra point in his first attempt in the game against Ohio, resulting in Martin pulling him from the game in favor of sophomore kicker Will Kandray. Kandray then had a field goal blocked and missed another extra point. Reed had missed two field goals the previous week against Akron.

Martin said he and his coaching staff were willing to try anything to solve the problem. They even brought in junior baseball player Cory Hindel, who kicked at Tallmadge High School, to try out as a kicker.

Martin said the solution he finally came up with for the kicking game is to make Reed kick, whether he wants to or not.

“The other thing I told Nate is he’s going to go out there and kick,” Martin said. “I ain’t going for it on fourth down anymore just because he’s scared to go kick a football.”

The Flashes have also struggled in the punt return game, averaging a MAC-low 4.3 yards per return. The coaching staff thought it had found a consistent return man in junior wide receiver Phil Garner until he muffed two punt returns against Akron.

Now Martin said he is even thinking about putting Edelman back on punt returns because he trusts him to get the job done.

“We’re just trying to get the best people out there we can (on special teams),” Martin said. “Here, before long, we might put Julian Edelman back there returning punts. He’ll do it (because) he’s a football player. He’ll make a play.”

Martin said he would also consider using Edelman on the kickoff return and coverage teams because the quarterback wants to play in those situations.

“I don’t know about some of these other guys,” Martin said.

Edelman said the offense would like to start with better field position but admitted a good return game would not solve all of the team’s problems.

“It’s always nice to start past the 30-(yard line) or get some good field position, but as an offense we practice (opening in bad field position) all the time,” Edelman said. “That’s no excuse at all, but it would be nice (to start in better position).”

Edelman said one of the hardest things about the team’s current losing streak is keeping the mood positive on the practice field.

“(With a) four-game losing streak, everybody’s counting you out,” Edelman said. “Right now, we have a long shot for the MAC (championship). It’s hard, but you’ve just got to keep it going, keep fighting (and) keep practices fun. It’ll be all right.”

Martin said it’s up to the players to improve their attitudes and performances because his coaching staff has put them in the position to win all season.

“Either (the players) can grow up and begin to win football games or they won’t, but it’s on them,” Martin said. “It’s on the players.”

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].