Injury sidelines Jacques for Homecoming game

Joe Harrington

Referring to Kent State’s 55th meeting against Miami as “the Homecoming Game” tomorrow at 3 p.m. couldn’t be more fitting. For the second time this season the Flashes will play at Dix Stadium, after a brutal stretch of away games to start the season.

“It’s going to be nice to be back here at Dix Stadium,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said.

The Flashes opened the season four states away in Ames, Iowa and have been on the road for every Division I team they’ve played. Looking at the schedule, it’s hard to believe that Kent State has started the season with a winning record at 3-2.

Then again, when you have a defense that is ranked 34th in the nation and Eugene Jarvis, a running back who is the nation’s leading rusher, it’s not hard at all.

But that defense won’t look quite the same as it did last week. During the fourth quarter against Ohio, senior safety Fritz Jacques tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). He won’t have surgery, but the strong safety will miss most of the remaining season.

Jacques was the Flashes fourth leading tackler with 29 this season and started every game in 2006. The senior has been a fixture in the defensive back field for three years and most of that time has been with senior cornerback Jack Williams.

“It’s tough losing a guy like that,” Williams said. “Losing (Jaques) is a tremendous loss but we just got to keep moving.”

Taking over for Jacques is red-shirt freshman Dan Hartman, who has 13 tackles this season. The safety, who has never started, is 6-foot 2-inches and 200 pounds, which brings more size to the position but that won’t make it any easier for him this week.

“The toughest thing is coming in when you haven’t played a lot and having to step-up and make plays,” Hartman said.

Overall, Jacques is the only major injury the Flashes have had this season and for a physical offense that leads the Mid-American Conference in rushing with 1,180 yards, the lack of injuries could be one reason Jarvis has emerged as one of the best backs in the country — his 769 rushing yards lead the nation.

On paper, the RedHawks (2-3) look like a team the Flashes could have success against. They have the ninth best rushing defense in the MAC, but haven’t exactly played the softest schedule.

“When you look at Miami statistically, it’s very deceiving because of who they’ve played,” Martin said. “They have played a monstrous schedule.”

The RedHawks played Cincinnati, who is ranked 20th in the country; Colorado, who beat No. 10 Oklahoma last week; and Syracuse, who Miami upset 17-14 at home.

Miami is led by junior linebacker Clayton Mullins, who is averaging 11.5 tackles a game, third in the MAC. Miami held Ball State to just one touchdown in their only MAC game this season, a 14-13 win. Ball State is the highest scoring team in the MAC at nearly 35 points per game.

Offensively, the Redhawks have played two quarterbacks this season, switching from senior Mike Kokal to sophomore Daniel Raudabaugh and now back to Kokal.

” I would expect to see Kokal more than anything,” Martin said. “It seems like their more comfortable with him right now.”

The Flashes’ league best rushing defense will face a struggling Miami running game that lost senior back Brandon Murphy in the third game of the season to a knee injury. Murphy had been a 2005 All-MAC selection and the Redhawks have struggled to replace him.

Next week, Kent State will be back on the road, as they travel to Columbus to play Ohio State in Ohio Stadium. But Martin is focused on the luxury a home game can bring, especially when it’s against a league opponent.

“We’ve got a really exciting football game to play this Saturday,” Martin said. “We’re going to need (every fan) in this football game and as many people in the community as we can get to come out and support this football team because it’s going take all of us to win this one.”

Contact football reporter Joe Harrington at [email protected].