2006 season gave glimpse of what’s to come

Deanna Stevens

Roller coaster season saw Flashes take steps toward a winning football program, MAC Championship

Players dump water on head coach Doug Martin after the Flashes snapped a 12-game losing streak by defeating Miami 14-16 on Sept. 16. SEAN DAUGHERTY | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Before starting the 2006 season, seniors Daniel Muir and Najah Pruden said the Kent State football team was going to make a run for the Mid-American Conference championship.

But a 1-10 record in 2005 combined with two losses to start the season caused a “here-we go again” mentality to sweep over Kent State.

With a 16-14 victory at Miami, the Flashes first win in more than a year, they opened the eyes within the conference, the university and themselves.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said the initial change in mentality came from the leadership of the seniors.

“They changed some attitudes about Kent State football from within our team and from outside our team,” Martin said. “They really changed the work ethic here more than anything.”

The win against Miami was the first of a five-game win streak, which put Kent State at the top of the MAC East Division and in the prime position to fulfill Muir’s and Pruden’s predictions.

The second half of the season did not fit the story-book ending everyone was expecting. But that is not to say it did not have a sense of drama. Kent State went 1-4 after the team’s bye week, including a 17-7 loss to Ohio that gave up the No. 1 position in the MAC East.

The Flashes only win after the bye week came against Eastern Michigan in their last home game of the season. That win put them 6-5 on the season, with one game remaining to get an opportunity to be one of three MAC schools to play in a bowl game.

Yet, in the final game the Flashes traveled to Ball State only to finish with a .500 record after a 30-6 loss.

Martin said having the season end the way it did already has the team “hungry” to finish out next season the way they wanted to finish this season.

“That’s what we’ve already talked to the ’07 team about,” Martin said. “Our whole theme needs to be finishing. Finishing a game, finishing a season, that’s the goal.”

Muir said being able to obtain some success in his final season is something that he will always remember.

“Obviously we didn’t get what we wanted,” Muir said. “But we woke a lot of people up in this conference though our play this year.”

Not only were the Flashes recognized for their collective turnaround, five individual Kent State players selected for the All-MAC teams.

Muir was the only Kent State player to make the All-MAC first team. This season he had 52 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception return for a touchdown.

For his career at Kent State, the defensive lineman ranks third all-time with 15 sacks and seventh all-time with 35 tackles for a loss.

Senior defensive back Usama Young echoed Muir’s disappointment in the ending of the season.

“I hate how the year ended,” Young said. “Knowing that we ended our college career with that loss, with that chance to go to a bowl game and we didn’t come through, that’s the only thing that makes me frustrated right now.”

Young made the All-MAC second team. The senior made 60 tackles, three for a loss this season. He also had two interceptions and six pass breakups.

Rounding out the defensive All-MAC selections was senior Andre Kirkland. The defensive back was named to the second team, along with being selected to play in the sixth annual All-American Classic in January.

The Flashes defense is ranked No. 4 nationally in tackles for a loss; Kirkland led the team with 13.5, as well as a team high 104 total tackles.

Kirkland said he found out about his trip to Las Vegas to play in the All-American game on during the team’s wrap up meeting.

“I just think it’s a blessing.” Kirkland said. It’s another opportunity to showcase what I can do and it’s another opportunity to get better as well.”

All three defensive players said they have aspirations the play in the NFL and will be working out during the off season to pursue the opportunity.

Young said after the Ball State game he hoped it wasn’t his last time playing.

“After the last game,” Young said. “That was the main thing I was thinking in my head. I don’t want this to be my last time stepping on the field with these guys, I want to play again soon.”

Offensively on the All-MAC team, the Flashes were represented by Pruden at wide reciever, and sophomore quarterback Julian Edelman, who were both named to the second team.

Pruden led the Flashes with 808 yards, nearly half of the team’s 1958 total receiving yards, and 39 receptions this season. He totaled six touchdowns an his 20.7 yards per catch was No.4 in the MAC and No. 45 in the nation. For his career, he is second all-time in receiving yards with more than 2, l00 yards.

In his first season with the Flashes, Edelman started all 11 games he played in this season. He threw for 1,859 yards, with a 134 completions of 242 attempts and 10 touchdowns. He was also second on the team in rushing with 658 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.

Even with all the recognition Young said he was unsatisfied that more players, such as junior defensive back Jack Williams weren’t acknowledged.

Williams had 62 tackles, six for a loss. He tied with Kirkland for four interceptions which he returned for 44 yards.

Muir also said the play of redshirt freshman running back Eugene Jarvis and junior defensive lineman Colin Ferrell should have been acknowledged.

Jarvis led the team in rushing with 798 yards, and had three touchdowns, while Ferrell had 45 tackles, 9.5 were for a loss.

Williams, Jarvis and Ferrell are just a few of the 16 starters who will be returning next season. The Flashes will have eight on offense as well as defense.

Kirkland said the upperclassmen should take the queue from what the seniors did this season.

“They saw what we did and we didn’t quite get there, so it’s going to take that extra step,” Kirkland said.

Young added that the team should pull their motivation from the other teams being able to play in January.

“One thing that fuels that passion to work even harder is when you go home and you’re looking at the bowl games,” Young said. “And you’re sitting down and you’re thinking ‘man, this is the one I could have played in.’ these teams are still there, continuing their season.”

Muir said he wants the team to remember what got them to this point, and continue to show opponents what they are capable of.

“They see what work does,” Muir said. “And they realize if they work even harder than they did last off season, they know they can be successful. Because they know people look at them now a little different, but they still aren’t respected.”

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].