Football team ready for MAC play after ‘preseason’

Thomas Gallick

‘conference play is where it’s at’

Senior quaterback Julian Edelman attempts a pass during the first half of the Golden Flashes game against Louisiana-Layfayette. Edelman threw for 81 yards on the day while rushing for another 145. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

When senior quarterback Julian Edelman talks about the pre-conference schedule, he almost feels the need to apologize for how little stock he puts in it.

“You don’t like to say that the non-conference (schedule) is like a preseason, but that’s truthfully what it is,” Edelman said. “(Non-conference games) are great to get the wins for the bowl games, but conference play is where it’s at. It’s where you need to get your wins.”

“Where it’s at” Saturday is Muncie, Ind., home of 4-0 Ball State. The Cardinals beat Indiana last week and boast an impressive 41.5 points per game this season.

Kent State football coach Doug Martin said a win at Ball State would be a huge turning point for the team.

“I promise you this: (If) we go down there and beat Ball State, nobody’s going to be talking about the first four games,” Martin said.

The Flashes went 1-3 in non-conference games this season, losing to Boston College, Iowa State and Louisiana-Lafayette and getting their lone win against Delaware State.

Martin said he agreed that the Mid-American Conference schedule is the most important part of the season.

He said he hopes the team can react to the beginning of the conference schedule like the 2006 football team (the most successful in Martin’s coaching tenure at 6-6) did.

“We need to go out and make something good happen to us,” Martin said. “We were in this same situation in (2006) and we went down and won a thrilling game at Miami to get our five-game winning streak started.”

The Flashes went 5-3 in the MAC in 2006, only the second time in the last 20 years that Kent State finished with a winning conference record. The team followed it up in 2007 with a 1-7 conference season, with its only win coming against Ohio.

Edelman may be the wild card for the Flashes in conference play, just like he was in the 2006 season. Overall, Kent State has gone 6-7 with Edelman starting conference games and 0-4 without him in the last two years.

Edelman said the pre-conference schedule was not a complete disappointment because the team learned a lot about what it needs to do to be successful in MAC games, specifically that the offense cannot afford turnovers.

“We learned that (if) we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty effective offense,” Edelman said. “If we don’t turn the ball over we can put up a good amount of points and keep the defense off the field.”

Senior linebacker Derek Burrell said a solid performance in the MAC, and a chance at a conference title is by far the biggest goal for the players on their last year of eligibility on the squad.

“(A MAC championship) would mean everything,” Burrell said. “While I’ve been here we haven’t succeeded like we should have. If I get that ring this year I’ll be very blessed.”

He said the younger players on the team need to understand how much each game on the conference schedule matters at the end of the season.

“You’ve got to expect the competition,” Burrell said. “Everybody knows it’s (going to go) down to the wire, so each game is important. You’ve got to expect the best from each team you play.”

Edelman said every member of the team needs to realize how essential it is to give the team a chance to win in every MAC game.

“Every game counts,” Edelman said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, every game is a championship game in conference play. It doesn’t get any more important.”

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].