KSU defense fails to contain high-powered Ball State offense
Kent State football coaches and players announced the beginning of Mid-American Conference play as a new start, but the result against Ball State in Muncie, Ind., Saturday seems all to familiar.
The Flashes (1-4, 0-1 MAC) fell to the Cardinals 41-20 in Scheumann Stadium, with Ball State continuing its undefeated season to open conference play.
Kent State football coach Doug Martin said the loss to Ball State is not a crushing blow to the team’s confidence because the Cardinals are such a talented football team.
“We just played a really good football team,” Martin said. “In my opinion this team we just played is going to be really hard to keep out of the MAC championship on the west side.”
Kent State’s defense could only hold Ball State junior quarterback Nate Davis to 265 passing yards with a touchdown, which is 19 yards below his season average. Ball State set the tone early on offense with a two-yard touchdown run by the MAC’s leading rusher, junior MiQuale Lewis, who would score two more touchdowns in the game.
Saturday, coupled with last week’s loss at Louisiana-Lafayette, marked the first time since the 2002 season that the Flashes defense had given up 40 points or more in consecutive games.
Sophomore defensive back Brian Lainhart gave some credit to the offenses at Louisiana-Lafayette and Ball State, but said the defense needs to play much better if they expect to be successful in the rest of the season.
“The competition we’ve been playing is great, but we just aren’t making any plays on defense,” Lainhart said. “(On) third and long we can’t let them out. We had a dropped pick (and) missed tackles. It’s on us as a defense.”
Flashes’ senior quarterback Julian Edelman gave the team hope with an acrobatic 12-yard running touchdown late in the second quarter, making the score 14-7 in favor of Ball State. The Cardinals answered quickly with a 66-yard kickoff return and scored on another rush by Lewis to take a 21-7 lead at the half.
The Kent State defense gave up another touchdown to start the second half, and the Flashes were never down by less than 17 points after that score.
Edelman sparked most of the offense on the day for Kent State with a team-leading 70 yards rushing and 177 yards passing.
Edelman said he was happy with how the team moved the ball on offense but wished the offensive statistics for the day included more touchdowns.
“I’m not really content with how we’re putting points on the board,” Edelman said. “We’re moving the ball up and down the field, we’re just not making the plays.”
Martin said he thinks Edelman has been playing better football since the second game of the season than he ever has in his career in Kent.
“Really, from the Iowa State game on, (Edelman’s) played the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Martin said. “He’s making great decisions for us, (and) he’s throwing the ball well.”
He said Edelman is showing increased maturity on the field after he or one of his teammates makes a mistake.
“(Edelman) had a couple passes dropped today (by Kent State receivers) that were touchdowns,” Martin said. “He didn’t get frustrated. He kept his poise, he kept playing (and) he kept making plays.”
Junior running back Eugene Jarvis sat out the game for the Flashes, leading to carries for sophomore running back Andre Flowers and freshman running back Jacquise “Speedy” Terry. Although Flowers started the game, Terry received the majority of the carries and rushed for 48 yards on the day, second only to Edelman.
Senior defensive back Rico Murray led the Flashes defensively, with 11 tackles on the day. The Flashes’ defense is giving up an average of 346 yards on the season, worst in the MAC and 105th in the nation.
The Flashes face rival Akron at Dix Stadium this Saturday.
Martin said he expects the Cardinals to represent the MAC West in the MAC Championship game, and the Flashes’ effort to force a rematch starts against the Zips.
“This is just the first conference game,” Martin said. “We’ve got a cross-town rival coming in next week, and (we will) go back to work.”
Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallic at [email protected]