The entire stadium was red. Hot, fiery, blazing, Iowa State red. The parking lot seemed as if it went for hundreds of miles and was covered from top to bottom with RVs, mini-vans and red painted school buses. This was not Dix Stadium, it wasn’t Kent, Ohio, and those face-painted fans were not members of the Blue-Gold club.
I spent about an hour and a half walking around Jack Trice Stadium without a clue as to what I was going to write. There was no way Kent State could win this season-opening football game. The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize that Iowa State was a big-time football school. How could they be – they never make bowl games, I thought.
After walking through five cornhole games and countless beer-pong setups in the fields that were converted into parking lots, I found some Kent State fans. They were the parents of Kent State starting quarterback Julian Edelman and tight end Tom Sitko. They offered me a brat and a beer, but I had to decline; the game was about to start.
I knew the Flashes had a pretty good season the year before, and I knew from covering the team for a few weeks that they looked pretty good in practice. But there was no way that Kent State was going to win this game. Even if Jack Lambert was playing middle linebacker, Kent State, the school known more for protests and basketball, was not going to come into Big XII country and beat a team with a returning quarterback and an all-conference wide receiver. It doesn’t happen.
Then the game started, and the Flashes were more than hanging with the Cyclones. After a failed experiment with Darren Rogers at running back, the Flashes had bounced back with soon-to-be super-stud rusher Eugene Jarvis pacing the game. I looked at the three other Kent State reporters and the feeling was, “Well, Kent State is going to play close and lose in the end.”
Then, faster than a Josh Cribbs kick return, Edelman threw the football downfield to this short little receiver whom I had never heard of named Leneric Muldrow, a freshman. A long pass play turned into a long touchdown play and the Flashes had taken the lead.
I stood up and began to say “yes,” until the Ravenna Record-Courier’s Dave Carducci gave me a death stare and quietly ordered, “Don’t do that.”
Kent State won the game.
That’s how the year started for me, watching tens of thousands of people walking out of a football stadium crying and cursing the Golden Flashes.
And that was about it as far as football goes. The Flashes would go on to win two more games and finished the season a miserable 3-9.
Thousands of miles away from Ohio, hundreds of minutes on a crowded airplane and there were just a few minutes left in the Kent State-St.Mary’s game. The Flashes had been trailing most of the second half and had fallen behind by as many as nine points. Then Mike Scott hit a 3-point shot and the momentum went to Kent State. St.Mary’s, the team that was undefeated at home, suddenly looked like a high school team with the flu.
And you can’t talk about that game without mentioning Al Fisher, a junior who transferred to Kent State days before the fall semester started, who won the MAC player of the year award. For the later part of the second half, Fisher’s game was as electrifying as the first time a person hears Eric Clapton’s guitar, or the first time a man watches Die Hard. Fisher scored 16 of his 28 points in the second half.
Like at Iowa State, I doubted the Flashes. I doubted the Flashes’ ability to stop St.Mary’s star player Patty Mills, but they did. Mills shot 2-of-12 from the field.
As Doug Gulasy, Danny Doherty and myself walked out of the gym, we noticed these fans weren’t mad; they were stunned that Kent State beat them. Bill Needle, the radio announcer for Kent State was in tears. The Flashes were riding high.
Thousands of miles and two days later back in Ohio, the Flashes were ranked for the first time in regular season history.
The very next weekend Kent State lost to Bowling Green. The feeling was the Flashes had flamed out faster than Vin Diesel’s career. But that wasn’t the case. The Flashes stormed back after losing to the Falcons and finished the season with an NCAA tournament appearance and MAC championship with Christian, Fisher and Haminn Quaintance all taking home postseason awards.
For all the basketball and football games I covered, track was the best. Teams are competing with each other, but not. Akron people are cheering for Kent State people, Kent State people are cheering for Akron people. I was ready to see Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton holding hands while warming up for the pole vault competition.
Where to next?
No one can predict what will happen next year in the world of Kent State sports. No one can say for certain Kent State is going walk into Cleveland Browns Stadium and beat Boston College, or go back to Jack Trice Stadium and beat the Cyclones again. It’s too early to ask if the basketball team can beat Kansas (it’s official, the 2008 National Champions and my favorite team will host the Flashes next season at Allen Field House). I mean, who knows with the team and the very capable Geno Ford at the helm?
These things are certain as this school year ends and students prepare next year: The Daily Kent Stater will be along for the thousands of miles, the hundreds of cramped minutes in a car and the seemingly endless amounts of shocking moments that all the Kent State Golden Flashes produce from September to May.
Contact Fall 2008 sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected]