Kent State travels to nationally ranked Virginia Tech

Deanna Stevens

After a tough loss to Ohio and a self-destructive game at Buffalo, the Kent State football team is trying to get back to the level they were before the bye week.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said the five-game win streak brought with it something the Flashes weren’t used to dealing with: the pressure of winning.

“At the time, games were coming at us very fast, and there wasn’t time for our players to think about what was happening to them,” Martin said. “Since that open date, we haven’t had that same mental focus.”

Martin said the Flashes (5-4, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) have to learn how to play with high expectations and get out of the “comfort zone of losing.” He continued to keep the pressure on the members of his team by challenging them to win two out of their three final games.

“I don’t care which two it is,” Martin said. “But we’ve got to win two. I want them to feel that pressure of trying to get it done because that’s what we haven’t handled well the last two weeks.”

A record above .500 has not been accomplished often in the history of Kent State football. Martin said that is why it was important for the Flashes to win two games in order to secure a winning season.

“Our kids have done so much this year for this university that hasn’t been done before,” Martin said. “And they need to finish it the right way.”

The Flashes will get their first opportunity for their sixth win with an out-of-conference game against the No. 20 Virginia Tech Hokies (7-2) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

But Kent State will have to do it without leading wide-receiver senior Najah Pruden, who is out with a ligament sprain in his foot. He should return for the last two MAC games.

Sophomore quarterback Julian Edelman is questionable for Saturday’s match up. He suffered a bruised sternum in the game against Buffalo.

Even without the starters, Martin said in order to stay fresh until the fourth quarter, the Flashes are going to have to play as many people as possible.

Martin said trying to break a two-game losing streak against the 20th best team in the nation will be a “nightmarish” task.

Not only does The Associated Press have the Hokies ranked No. 20 in the nation, but the Hokies have also won 24 straight home non-conference games.

This season, the Hokies have made a name for themselves with their play on special teams, defense and their physical strength.

“If you go in there and out score their defense and their special teams, you’ve had a good day,” Martin said. “Their defense usually scores at least one touchdown, and their special teams scores one. They’ve got to have one of the best strength and conditioning programs in the world. Because their kids are strong, they’re fast and they’re all lean.”

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at < HREF=”mailto:[email protected]”>[email protected].