Junior receiver Marcus Hill goes up for a catch during Saturday’s football game against Buffalo. The Flashes (1-9, 0-7 MAC) lost to the Buffalo Bulls (1-9, 1-6 MAC) 10-6. Senior kicker Travis Mayle scored the only points for the Flashes.
Credit: Steve Schirra
In the battle for last place in the Mid-American Conference, the Kent State football team claimed the title.
Kent State’s 10 seniors were disappointed on Senior Day in their final home game, losing to Buffalo (1-9, 1-6 MAC) 10-6 on Saturday.
“I thought our defense did an absolutely terrific job,” Buffalo coach Jim Hofher said. “Our guys really battled. That defensive presence really made the difference in scoring the only touchdown of the game. We struggled through some personnel issues. There’s some historical significance with this being our first ever road win in the MAC.”
Not only did Buffalo pick up their first MAC road victory, the Flashes gave the Bulls their first win of the season.
The Flashes (1-9, 0-7 MAC) squandered scoring chances with two first-half turnovers in Bulls territory. Sophomore quarterback Michael Machen had two interceptions in the first half, and receiver Derrick Bush fumbled a Machen pass at Buffalo’s 31 yard line. The fumble was recovered by the Bulls, who converted a 20 yard field goal to start the scoring with 5:29 left in the half.
Machen’s second pick came on the Flashes next drive by junior Ramon Guzman, who returned the ball for 10 yards.
The interception by Guzman was his first of his career.
“It was good to finally get (an interception),” Guzman said. “I don’t know why he threw it to there.”
The half ended with an unsuccessful field goal attempt by Buffalo redshirt freshman kicker Gerry McGroaty.
Freshman quarterback Jon Brown began the second half, but was unable to produce a play.
“Michael (Machen) has taken a lot of blame,” Martin said, “so we gave him a break.”
Brown was sacked for a loss of 14 yards on the first play of the drive and then fumbled on a rush attempt. The ball was picked up by senior defensive tackle Rob Schroeder on the Kent State 12 yard line.
“They had trouble stopping the blitz,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder’s recovery put Buffalo in an easy position to score, which the Bulls were able to do on a 4-yard rush by junior running back Jared Patterson. Buffalo’s successful extra point attempt put the Bulls up 10-0 with 12:36 left in the quarter, but it was the last time the Bulls would score during the game.
“On the bright side, I thought defensively our kids played great,” Martin said. “The defense played an exceptional game. They’ve really come a long way defensively. The young linebackers are really growing up, and we’re making some plays in the secondary.”
The Flashes’ next drive began on the Kent State 35 yard line. On the Flashes’ fourth down with 14 to go on the Buffalo 23, Brown came close to throwing an interception. Thanks to a personal foul on the defense, the Flashes picked up a first down on the Buffalo 11, but were unable to come back with a touchdown.
Instead, senior kicker Travis Mayle posted the Flashes’ first points of the game with a successful 29-yard field goal halfway through the third quarter.
Senior buck linebacker Justin Parrish added another sack to his school record of 24 on Buffalo’s next unproductive drive.
The third quarter ended with a fourth down after Brown was sacked for the second time for a loss of 12 yards.
The Flashes came within scoring early in the fourth quarter when Bush returned Woods’ 25-yard punt for 35 yards to the Buffalo 11.
Brown was sacked on second down, but a face masking penalty on Schroeder put the Flashes on the 5 yard line.
But instead of taking advantage of their good field position, the Flashes failed to score a touchdown.
Brown was sacked by Guzman and fumbled, but he rolled over and recovered the ball on the 17 yard line.
Martin said protection of the ball was what affected the game the most.
“I told our kids all week that the team that doesn’t turn the ball over will win this game, and that’s exactly what happened,” Martin said. “We had some shots. Our kids didn’t quit. We were down there ready to score. We just needed to make a play and didn’t make it.”
On the third down, an incomplete pass intended for freshman running back Spencer Dye left the Flashes to opt for another successful field goal attempt by Mayle.
Mayle, who already holds the school record for number of field goals made, pushed his career number to 41, making him the only kicker in Kent State history to make over 40 field goals.
The Flashes made another paralyzing mistake on Buffalo’s punt at the end of their next drive. Woods’ punt only went 24 yards to the Buffalo 45, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty forced the Bulls to replay fourth down.
Woods’ next punt went 42 yards, and Bush was only able to return it for seven yards.
Machen came back in on the Flashes’ next drive and was sacked twice.
The Bulls’ six sacks marked a season high for the team.
On the Flashes’ final drive, Machen threw an 18 yard pass to freshman wide receiver Shawn Lewis on second down, placing the Flashes on the Buffalo 38.
Machen’s next deep pass intended for freshman wide receiver Mark Woodson was thrown into the end zone, but a pass interference penalty was called on Buffalo, putting the Flashes on the 23 yard line.
On third and fourth down, both of Machen’s passes intended for Hill were incomplete, ending the Flashes’ hopes for a win.
“We built some confidence as the game went on,” Buffalo senior linebacker Bryan Cummings said. “By the end of the game we expected to stop them. When everyone’s playing to the best of their ability, you feel like you can’t be stopped. This is why we’ve worked hard all year.”
Hofher said he was pleased with the way the team played after the Buffalo athletic department announced that Hofher will not return as head coach for the 2006 season.
“What’s most gratifying to me is that our guys figured out what to do and how to do it in light of the news that was delivered to them this week,” Hofher said.
Despite the loss for the Flashes, Martin praised Buffalo’s effort.
“I congratulate coach Hofher and his staff,” Martin said. “I thought he did a great job coaching under very adverse circumstances. He’s a man of great integrity and great character. We knew their kids would come out and fight really hard for them, which they did and it’s a testimony to what kind of man he and that staff is. My hat’s off to them.”
Martin said the team’s injuries were another factor in the Flashes’ loss.
“Our situation is that we have so many injuries right now that we just can’t field an offensive football team; and it’s nobody’s fault,” Martin said. “But we had three more guys go down today in the offensive line, another two receivers. We’re just trying to piece it together the best we can.”
But while Martin and the coaches are piecing their team together, Mayle said the eight-game losing streak is hard to deal with, especially in his senior year.
“If one thing good that can come out of this is that the younger guys can come out of this knowing how frustrating it is and seeing how bad it hurts,” Mayle said. “And hopefully that will carry over to next year. I just hope that in the off season, they work hard.”
Martin added he understands the team’s frustration.
“They’re frustrated,” Martin said. “They put a lot into this. They’re hurt and they should be, if they weren’t there would really be something wrong. They’re resilient. They’ll fight back. We’ve got an opportunity to win (at Akron on Nov. 24), but we are going to have to come together.”
Contact assistant sports editor and football reporter Kali Price at [email protected]