From barely moving to high gear

Deanna Stevens

Howard and Jarvis add new dimension to Flashes’ offense

Runningback Tony Howard wants to end the Flashes’ reign as worst rushing team in the nation. GAVIN JACKSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

Last season, the Kent State football team’s rushing offense could best be compared to a car in neutral.

Using their reign as the worst running team in America as motivation, the Flashes are taking their rushing game into a new gear this season.

The offensive overhaul can be seen already.

After only two games, Kent State has 330 rushing yards. That figure is about 65 percent of last season’s 505 total yards.

Two players responsible for the accelerated turn-around are runningbacks Eugene Jarvis and Tony Howard.

In his first appearance with Kent State, Jarvis, who redshirted last year, rushed for more than 100 yards in the season opener against Minnesota. He gained another 61 yards against Army.

Howard played a year of football for Michigan State and is making his Kent State debut after sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer regulations. He added 64 yards to the effort in the first two games.

The duo’s ability to run the ball has been making opponents change strategies.

“Teams can’t just prepare for one of us, they have to prepare for both of us because we bring different styles to the game,” Jarvis said.

When it comes to the two athletes, Howard said the relationship between he and Jarvis is complementary.

Listed at 5-foot-5, Jarvis is not the typical size for a college athlete. He said the faith coach Doug Martin showed in him, despite his size, was why he came to Kent State.

Jarvis won Pennsylvania’s Player of the Year award twice in high school, surely that fact helped gain Martin’s confidence.

The Central Catholic standout began playing football when he was 8-years old. He said his parents encouraged him, and ever since then he has loved the sport.

“My parents put a football in my hand,” Jarvis said. “And it was just a gift god gave me and I just ran with it.”

Jarvis is known for having great speed and vision on the field, but last week, Martin said there is more to Jarvis’ capabilities.

“What hasn’t been shown yet is he’s really a tremendous receiver out of the back field, too.” Martin said. “When we get to use him in that vein, that will make us even more explosive offensively.”

After the game against Army, Martin also added that the team is going to start using both Jarvis and Howard at the same time.

Howard, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 200 lbs, said he brings more power to the running game.

Unlike Jarvis, Howard did not start playing the game until his freshman year of high school.

“Everyone else was playing, and the coaches thought I had something,” Howard said. “But my mom and grandma didn’t want me to play because they thought I was too small.”

But after his senior season at Garfield Heights High School, where he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 28 touchdowns, his mom was not as skeptical.

“My grandma, she past away a couple of years ago, so hopefully she’s looking from above and she’s proud of me,” he said. “And my mom, she’s loving it.”

After a disappointing freshman season at Michigan State, he said he decided to come back to Ohio for one reason in particular.

“I had a son,” Howard said “Basically that was one of the reasons why I wanted to come home.”

He added that he feels that Kent State was a better fit for his capabilities.

After being sidelined while the team was putting up the worst rushing statistics in the country, Howard said they have new expectations this year.

“I want to lead the MAC in rushing,” Howard said. “Last year we were dead last, I want to be on top this year.”

Jarvis added he and Howard were prepared for the offensive changes Martin was seeking.

“I don’t really feel any pressure,” Jarvis said. “Coach Martin really emphasized that he wanted to run the football, and we did that in the spring. Basically me and Tony are going to go out there and be as effective as possible.”

Howard, Jarvis and the rest of the Flashes will have their next chance to prove themselves at 2 p.m. tomorrow against Miami.

The game marks the beginning of MAC play for Kent State.

Both Jarvis and Howard say the key to getting the first win against the RedHawks comes down to keeping the turnovers down, executing plays, and getting the passing game back up to standard.

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].