Winless teams set to meet at Miami

Deanna Stevens

Fresh off an overtime loss at Army last week, the Kent State football team begins Mid-American Conference play at Miami this weekend.

The Flashes (0-2) play the RedHawks (0-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday in their second consecutive road game.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said the Flashes will have a formidable challenge in Miami.

“It will be a monumental test for us to contain them,” Martin said.

History is not on the side of the Flashes when it comes to the RedHawks. Miami has won nine of its last 10 MAC season openers, and leads the all-time series against Kent State 43-10. The RedHawks also have an eight-game winning streak against the Flashes at Yeager Stadium.

Martin added the RedHawks’ overall quickness will be a prime concern.

“They look like the typical Miami team; very fast,” Martin said. “They always seem to have the best speed of anybody in the conference.”

More specifically, Martin pointed out the threat of Miami’s quarterback, junior Mike Kokal. He went 29-for-43 in passing attempts with 355 yards and four touchdowns in the team’s 38-31 overtime loss against Purdue.

Purdue blocked a Miami field goal that could have won the game with 17 seconds left in regulation.

The Flashes had a similar kicking misfortune against Army, missing a field goal mid-way through the fourth quarter that would have changed the game significantly.

With the three-point loss against the Black Knights still vivid in their minds, Martin said he was proud of his players despite the defeat.

“As far as the effort and the passion that our kids played with, that’s what a college football team is supposed to look like,” Martin said. “Our kids were willing to go down to the last play of the game to win.”

Martin added that the Flashes were responsible for losing the game, rather than being out-played by the Black Knights.

“At some point, you have to make plays to win the game,” Martin said. “We kick a field goal — we win it, we make a short-yardage first down or goal-line play — we win it, if the defense makes a stop in the first half — we win it.”

And even though it sounds simple, to get the win Kent State is going to have to do something it hasn’t done in the previous two games: score when in position to do so, and stop the opposing offense when it counts.

They showed signs of doing this against Army.

Sophomore Julian Edelman continues to learn the meaning of hands-on experience as the starting quarterback. In his 178 yards performance against the Black Knights his flaws, as well as his potential, were clearly visible.

“Because he can move so well, he can find passing lanes,” Martin said. “And he puts so much stress on the defensive line as far as scrambling. Army just got to the point where they stopped rushing the passer because every time they did he would just step through the pocket and it was a 10-yard gain.”

Edelman will remain the starter as junior Michael Machen is still out with an undisclosed injury. Martin said he does not know when he will return.

Defensively, the Flashes were more consistent in their stops after half time. They held Army scoreless in the second half until the game-winning field goal in overtime. Martin said they have the ability to be a good defensive team, as long as they be consistent.

He added the MAC title is ready for the taking because no team has the standout ability to shut other teams down defensively.

“There’s a lot of parody in this league,” Martin said. “To me, it’s because no one has just a stonewall-dominant defense.”

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].