Minnesota to provide first test

Deanna Stevens

Consistently winning has been a challenge for the Kent State football team since the end of 2004, when it won the last four games of the season.

So, when it begins a season against a Big Ten team that has had no such problem, breaking that streak will be quite a feat.

Kent State will open the season against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Dix Stadium.

The game will mark the first time Dix Stadium will host a Big Ten opponent.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said he hopes the Big Ten opposition will draw a crowd to the stadium.

“I would hope it would attract a lot of fans to come out to the stadium that opening game to see a Big Ten opponent,” Martin said at the Mid-American Conference media day in July. “We’d like to see that place filled up. That would be exciting for our players just to come in there in front of a packed house and play at home.”

Issues at running back and rebuilding an offensive line for Minnesota may give the Flashes an opportunity to capitalize on mistakes that come with the early season confusion.

Even with the news of Minnesota’s issues, Martin isn’t underestimating his opponent.

“They are still a Big Ten team, and they have elite players, and they have good coaches,” Martin said. “It will be a tough task to move the ball consistently against them.”

But before the Flashes can capitalize on Minnesota’s mistakes, they have to avoid making errors themselves – something they struggled with last season.

“We’ve got to do a great job taking care of the ball,” Martin said. “If we go out there and turn the ball over and give their offense a short field, then it’s going to be a long day.”

Martin said that along with injuries and youth, it was the turnover margin that hurt them the most last season.

Also offensively, the Flashes are going to have to put points on the board. It sounds obvious, but last season’s 16.4-point average is three points less than the average amount Minnesota allowed in its seven wins.

Martin said the Flashes are more concerned with improving offensively as much as possible, rather than catering to Minnesota’s defense.

The Golden Gophers are well known for their rushing expertise. And that could be a real problem for the Flashes if they give up as many rushing yards as they did last season. Senior defensive end Daniel Muir said the Flashes have to stay diligent defensively for the whole game.

“Even though they lost some players on the offensive line, they still have a lot of experience,” Muir said. “The key to being successful is being sound throughout the game and just being disciplined.”

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].