COLUMN: Football needs to learn from mistakes

Kali Price

Whenever I told someone I covered the Kent State football team, I always got the same response.

“They really suck.”

And that happened before the 2005 season even started.

At the end of the 2004 season, the Flashes had the No. 1 overall defense and the No. 1 rush defense in the Mid-American Conference.

The Flashes’ defense was even ranked 17th in the nation.

But not just the defense made an impact.

The Flashes’ offense averaged 30.5 points per game and posted the second-highest scoring offense in Kent State history.

But the team whose season ended with a four-game winning streak and an offense that outscored its opponents 185-64 fell apart in the 2005 season.

I hated it every time someone told me the team was bad. I always thought, “Do they not know how good they were last season? Or do you even go to the games?”

Before the losing streak was in full force, I’d stand up for the team.

I always pointed out to people how much talent the team had, but they didn’t quite know how to use it yet.

I added that sophomore quarterback Michael Machen would come through and lead the team. I would mention how senior linebacker Jon Sessler was one of the top linebackers in the nation and he may have a shot at the NFL.

But then the Flashes lost to Ohio.

And then Eastern Michigan.

And then Navy.

And then lost every single game after that, putting up progressively worse numbers.

So when the comment came up again and again, I didn’t want to agree, but students were convinced.

I usually just brushed it off with a “whatever,” and went on about how I went to Navy or Ohio and that I still had fun going to other schools, sitting in the press box at Dix Stadium and talking to the coach and players.

Well it wasn’t as fun watching the Flashes lose game after game and end the season with a 1-10 overall record.

It was painful – I’m sure it was more painful for the team to play than it was for me to watch – but it was still painful.

The Flashes were outscored by all 11 opponents, 331-180. They were definitely outrun by their opponents. The Flashes’ offense put up only 505 rushing yards, whereas their opponents recorded 2,228 yards.

But their passing numbers are much better.

The Flashes posted 2,162 passing yards, while their opponents put up 2,097. The offense also averaged 237.5 passing yards per game.

But with an offense like that, something had to go wrong.

The Flashes finished last in the MAC and had their first winless MAC season since 1998.

Part of that is because of injuries. Freshman wide receiver Linwood Jenkins was forced to step into the running back position because of injuries. In his six games, Jenkins ended up being the team’s second-leading rusher, although he only posted 95 net rushing yards and averaged 15.8 rushing yards per game.

And after Sessler tore his ACL on Oct. 15 at Navy, the defense was never the same.

Despite the numbers, three players received All-MAC honors, including senior buck linebacker Justin Parrish who was named to the All-MAC first team. Senior punter Josh Brazen and senior defensive lineman Daniel Muir were named to the All-MAC second team.

But with those seniors gone and a less-than-glamorous season behind them, the coaches and the squad need to reevaluate the game plan.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said multiple times in press conferences that he respected his players and their resilience.

I can’t help but agree.

Any team that can go 1-10 and still want to go out on the field next season is more than just resilient.

They’re fearless.

It’s sad that the seniors have to leave their team after a season full of disappointments, but the team had to learn from those mistakes.

But especially, learn not to make the same mistakes next year.

Contact assistant sports editor and football reporter Kali Price at [email protected].