Potent Wildcat offense poses challenge for ‘D’

Joe Harrington

Junior linebacker Jameson Konz breaks through the offensive line during practice Wednesday afternoon at Dix Stadium. Konz had one sack and seven tackles in last week’s 23-14 win over Iowa State. DANIEL OWEN | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Kent State and Kentucky are often labeled by fans as basketball schools. Kentucky has more wins than any other program in college basketball history and Kent State is arguably one of the most consistent teams in the country, winning at least 20 games almost every year. But those fans may be overlooking two developing and promising football programs that both won their season openers.

The Flashes are coming off an impressive 23-14 win over Iowa State and are looking to start 2-0 for the first time since 1988. Kentucky – who beat Eastern Kentucky 50-10 Saturday – returns a number of players from their 2006 Music City Bowl team, which beat Clemson 28-20. It is the fifth time the schools have played each other, with Kentucky winning each time.

Wildcat senior quarterback Andre’ Woodson is more than just a pro prospect, ESPN football draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. lists him as the seventh best senior in the country, regardless of position. The 6-5, 230 pound quarterback is third on Kentucky’s all-time passing yards list and currently has connected on 191 consecutive passes without throwing an interception.

“He’s probably one of the better quarterbacks we’ve played against since I’ve been here,” said fifth-year senior tight end Tom Sitko, who has played against other good quarterbacks, such as former Big 10 offensive player of the year Drew Tate of Iowa in 2004.

Woodson won’t be the only offensive weapon the Flashes must stop. Senior running back Rafael Little is not only a capable running back who has rushed more than 2,000 yards in his career, he is also a dangerous punt returner that has recorded more than 4,000 all-purpose yards in his career.

“The better people that we play, the better it will force us to play,” said junior linebacker Jameson Konz, who had seven tackles and a sack last week. “We’re going to show them a real physical game. If they want to run the ball we’re just going to pound them and tell them no.”

Konz said the defense needs to play hard and follow their assignments in order to have a successful game. On the other side of the ball, Sitko believes they must play a mistake-free football game after turning the ball over three times in the redzone last week.

“You can’t turn the ball over in the redzone,” Sitko said. “You’ve only got 20 yards to go, you’ve go to punch it in.”

Last week, Kent State faced the leading tackler in the nation from 2006. This week, they’ll face Wesley Woodyard, who has been placed on the watchlist for four different postseason awards, including the Dick Butkus award given to the nation’s best collegiate linebacker. He had 13 tackles last week while anchoring a defense that allowed just 202 yards to the outmatched Colonels.

“We don’t have to do anything special (against the defense), we just have to run an efficient offense,” Sitko said.

Coach Doug Martin, a Kentucky graduate along with his wife Vicki, said his team is looking sharp heading into the weekend. He believes that a football team should see its most improvement from its first game to its second game.

“We’re definitely going to have to show that, particularly on offense,” Martin said

The Flashes will enter the game with a lot of confidence after already beating one team from a Bowl Championship Series conference, Iowa State.

“Now that they’ve actually done it, actually beaten a BCS team, it’s not so much of a stretch in their minds,” Martin said.

Contact football reporter Joe Harrington at [email protected].