Bowl bid rests on Ball State

Deanna Stevens

Daily Kent Stater

With a bowl appearance at stake, the Kent State football team is pulling motivation from an easily forgotten place for its final regular season game against Ball State on Friday.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said he used his assistant coaches as an example to show how to persevere when faced with an obstacle.

“Coming off a 1-10 season, that was a real challenge for our coaching staff.” Martin said. “And just building this football program is a great challenge. Not everybody is willing to accept that type of challenge, and these coaches have. And I told the players that’s how you respond. When people tell you it can’t be done, you go out and do it.”

A win could land Kent State (6-5, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) in Toronto for the International Bowl or Mobile, Ala. for the GMAC Bowl.

Martin said after the Buffalo game he wanted the team to feel the pressure of not ending the season on a five-game losing streak. Now with the possibility of a bowl bid, and the first seven-win season since 1987, he hopes they are able to achieve this goal as well.

“These last couple of weeks I’ve really tried to put pressure on them to win,” Martin said. “I want them to learn how to handle those situations … and they responded to that. So I put the bowl possibility out there for them in hope that they’ll meet that challenge.”

The Flashes, who own the No. 1 passing defense in the MAC (allowing 96.6 passing yards per game), will match up against the Cardinals (4-7, 4-3 MAC), the conference’s No. 1 passing offense (averaging 258.5 yards per game).

But Martin said he is more concerned with Kent State’s offense taking some of the pressure off of the Flashes’ defense.

“The biggest deal of the game is our offense,” Martin said. “We haven’t really played as well, obviously the last couple of games, as we did earlier in the year. We have to match whatever Ball State’s offense does. We’re not going to go shut them out, that would be asking too much, they’re too good for that.”

Kent State sophomore quarterback Julian Edelman returned from a bruised sternum injury at Buffalo to play a “conservative” game against Eastern Michigan, Martin said.

Martin said he plans to use Edelman more aggressively in the match up against Ball State.

Leading the Cardinal offense is freshman quarterback Nate Davis. In Ball State’s 20-17 victory at Toledo, Davis completed 15 passes on 30 attempts for 212 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

“He doesn’t look like a freshman,” Martin said. “He plays in a very mature manner.”

The Flashes and the Cardinals have faced each other times 22 since 1977. Ball State leads the series 17-5, with the last Kent State win coming from 31-18 victory in Muncie, Ind., in 2001.