Kent kick, Kent win, Kent State

Thomas Gallick

Special teams an issue again in loss to Ohio

Sophomore tight end Jonathan Simpson reacts after the Flashes’ 26-19 loss against Ohio University on Saturday. Simpson had one catch for nine yards. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Last year, Kent State’s junior kicker Nate Reed had a standout game against Ohio, tying a Kent State record with four field goals in a game.

This year, Kent State football coach Doug Martin yanked Reed as field goal kicker after he missed his first attempt at an extra point in the Flashes’ 26-19 loss to the Bobcats.

Reed’s replacement, sophomore Will Kandray, went 1-for-2 on extra points and had a field goal blocked.

Martin said he did not know how to react to Reed’s struggles this season, just one year after the junior broke the Kent State record for longest field goal and tied the school records for most field goals in a game and season.

“I’ve tried to love him up,” Martin said. “I’ve tried to jump on him. I’ve tried everything. At some point’s he’s got to pony up and (improve).”

The game was representative of the Flashes’ (1-6, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) season so far, with special teams blunders constantly coming back to haunt the Flashes.

In last week’s 30-27 double overtime loss to Akron, Reed missed two field goals and junior wide receiver Phil Garner fumbled two punt returns, losing one. In Kent State’s 48-28 loss to Iowa State, the Flashes allowed the Cyclones to block two punts.

Martin said the Flashes are excelling in one area: finding new ways every week to “screw up.”

“We should be a winning football team right now,” Martin said. “For whatever reason, it’s just not happening, but we’ve got an off week to get it straightened out.”

Martin said the problems in the kicking game put a lot of pressure on the offense to try to convert on fourth downs.

“It’s huge when you’re down there in the red zone and you don’t know if you can make an extra point, much less a field goal,” Martin said. “It forces you to have to go for it on fourth down, which we started having to do today.”

Kent State also struggled in the return game and coverage game, giving up a 37-yard kickoff return to Ohio’s junior running back Chris Garrett. Josh Pleasant had the long return kickoff return for the Flashes at 19 yards.

Kent State currently sits at last in the MAC in yards per kickoff return and extra points percentage, and second to last in yards allowed per kickoff and field goal percentage.

Senior quarterback Julian Edelman, the team’s rushing leader against Ohio with 136 yards and two touchdowns, said the team can’t just fault the special teams unit because the offense failed to convert many opportunities.

“You can’t blame it on the special teams,” Edelman said. “It’d be great to have special teams do something, but you can’t just blame it on them.”

Edelman also threw two interceptions and one touchdown. He hit senior wide receiver Shawn Bayes on the sideline, who ran the ball for 82 yards after the reception for a touchdown.

Bayes posted a career-high 141 receiving yards in the game on five catches, including the touchdown. He said the 82-yard reception came together because of great blocking.

“I was just able to get the ball in my hand and then just able to make a couple of guys miss and take it to the house,” Bayes said. “I had great downfield blocks from all my other receivers.”

Kent State’s junior running back Eugene Jarvis returned for his first game since injuring his ankle in the Sept. 13 win against Delaware State. Jarvis totaled only 50 yards on 14 carries despite taking all but one handoff at running back.

Sophomore running back Andre Flowers, who rushed for 85 yards against Akron last week, received only one handoff and rushed for seven yards. Freshman running back Jacquise “Speedy” Terry, who rushed for 60 yards on 10 carries against Akron, did not carry the ball once against Ohio.

Martin said although the offense and defense were certainly not perfect, a large portion of the blame for the loss falls on the kicking game.

Perhaps the best indication of Kent State’s status on special teams – and overall – came when Martin answered whether or not he would be willing to hold open tryouts for a new kicker.

“I’m up for anything right now,” Martin said.

Game Notes

Special teams savior: The one area Kent State is not hurting on in the special teams game is punting. Freshman punter Matt Rinehart is averaging 40.7 yards per punt, good for fourth in the MAC. Last season, the Flashes finished last in the conference with an average of 30.5 yards per punt.

Seeing red. zone: The Flashes have failed to score eight times in the red zone this season in 22 attempts, the worst red zone percentage in the MAC. On the other side of the ball, Kent State’s opponents have scored 26 times in the red zone on 29 attempts. Could the kicking game have anything to do with that?

Mr. Pressley has left the building: After setting a season high in receptions in a game for the Flashes last week with eight, freshman wide receiver Kendrick Pressley was hit by the inevitable sophomore week slump. Pressley caught one pass for no gain against the Bobcats.

Gains and losses: The Flashes fell to Ohio despite outgaining the Bobcats in total offense 392-379. Kent State also outgained Akron and Iowa State earlier this season in losses.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].