Kent State football starts 2008 in Cleveland against Boston College

Chris Gates

The Kent State football team released its schedule for 2008 season, and with back-to-back Bowl Championship Series opponents to start the season, it is arguably the toughest in recent history.

The home opener, at Cleveland Browns Stadium in the Patriot Bowl, brings Atlantic Coast Conference team Boston College to Northeast Ohio Aug. 30. The Eagles went 11-3 last season and won the ACC Atlantic Division but will bring a new quarterback to Cleveland after likely first round pick Matt Ryan goes to the NFL.

The following week, the Flashes travel to Iowa State where they upset the Cyclones last season to start the year.

“I think this is the best schedule we’ve had since I’ve been the head coach here,” coach Doug Martin said. “Getting to open up against Boston College at Cleveland Browns Stadium, that’s a great deal for our fans and our players.”

The decision to play the opening game in Cleveland was a decision made between Athletic Director Laing Kennedy and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. The arrangement likely will lead to similar events in the future in Kent State sports.

“We’re happy to work with the Sports Commission on an event that will bring a marquee Division I football opponent to Cleveland,” Kennedy said. “We’re proud that this game will be the continuation of an annual event.”

Other area Mid-American Conference schools, Akron and Bowling Green, have played at Cleveland Browns Stadium over the years.

The Flashes will play two other non-conference opponents. Delaware State visits Dix Stadium for the official home opener Sept. 13, and then Kent State travels to Louisiana-Lafayette Sept. 20.

Sept. 27 marks the opening of Mid-American Conference play for the Flashes when they travel to Ball State.

Then it’s back to Dix Stadium for two straight crucial MAC home games. The rival Akron Zips will come in for the battle of the Wagon Wheel Oct. 4, and the following week Ohio will travel up from Athens Oct. 11 for homecoming.

“(There are) really attractive home games,” Martin said. “Having Akron at home, which should be a huge crowd, and Ohio for homecoming, which hopefully should be another good crowd. I think it gives us a chance to really generate a lot of great interest on campus.”

Other conference home games are against Temple Nov. 12 and Northern Illinois Nov. 18.

Rounding out the rest of the MAC schedule are Miami Oct. 25, Bowling Green Nov. 1 and Buffalo Nov. 28. All three are away games.

The schedule is somewhat reminiscent of the 2007 season, playing Delaware State in the home opener, and also traveling to Iowa State.

Kent State and Iowa State have a contracted series in which the two will face each other for the next four years. In 2009, the Cyclones will come to Kent State as part of the non-conference schedule.

As for Delaware State, Martin and the athletic department like the challenge of facing the Hornets. They are a team coming off of a 10-win season last year.

“We really thought that Delaware State was a great opponent last year,” Martin said. “That’s a really strong 1-AA opponent. That will be a good way for us to start off here at home.”

Last year the Flashes defeated Iowa State 23-14 to start the season. After a loss to Kentucky, Kent State beat Delaware State 38-7.

Martin said the team is ready to get back out and compete to prove that they are better than last year’s record indicates. After 2006, a year in which the Flashes went 6-6 and became bowl eligible, expectations were high for a MAC East Championship and a bowl berth.

“Our team is looking forward to getting out and regaining our swagger that we lost after that 2006 season,” Martin said. “We really had some high expectations for last year. We still felt like we were good enough to win a lot more games than what we did.”

“Our kids are even more hungry to go out and prove how good they can be,” he added.

Fifteen starters combined on offense and defense return from last season’s team. Spring practice starts March 26.

2008 Kent Football schedule

Home games in bold

August 30 Boston College*

September 6 Iowa State

September 13 Delaware State

September 20 Lousiana-Lafayette

September 27 Ball State

October 4 Akron

October 11 Ohio

October 25 Miami

November 1 Bowling Green

November 12 Temple (ESPN2 or ESPN 360)

November 18 Northern Illinois

November 28 Buffalo

*-Cleveland Browns Stadium

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].