So close, yet so far

Kali Price

Team falls short, 20-27, in final quarter again

Another fourth-quarter comeback wasn’t enough for the Kent State football team for the second week in a row.

The Flashes (1-4, 0-2 Mid-American Conference) lost their third straight game, falling to Eastern Michigan (3-2, 2-0 MAC) 27-20 Saturday.

Freshman quarterback Jon Brown tried to lead the Flashes to a win, but finished with an unsuccessful fourth-quarter comeback attempt in his first career start, filling in for sophomore quarterback Michael Machen who was out with a knee injury.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said the Flashes played just as they practiced.

“I was disappointed, but what I’m trying to get our team to understand is whatever happens in practice, good or bad, is going to happen in the game,” he said. “And I can tell you right now is that on Tuesday and Wednesday in practice that’s how our wide receivers played and so that’s exactly what happened in the game. And the same way in practice, our defensive line has been jumping offsides and guess what, that happened in the game. And there were some good things too. But until they buy into that consistency, they’re not going to be able to play four quarters. And that’s what kills us right now, we can’t play four quarters of a game. We were playing good two quarters of offense, two quarters of defense, but it takes four.”

Brown had little protection and countless dropped passes in the first half. The Eastern Michigan defense was able to sack him three times in the first half and pick off two passes.

“We just don’t play smart enough to give ourselves a chance to win right now,” Martin said. “We make too many mistakes on both sides of the ball and those cost us. Jumping offsides twice in a row, one on third-and-six and then giving them a first down. We’re just not disciplined enough to throw the ball where we’re supposed to, we’re dropping passes and we’re just not playing good football right now.”

The Flashes tried to harp on every resource in the second half as senior defensive tackle Danny Muir came in to play at the fullback position.

But in the second half, the Flashes began to come back from being down 21-0.

“The team did a little bit better the second half for whatever reason,” Brown said. “We made catches and just started making plays and we just got the ball rolling.”

Trailing 27-7 heading into the fourth quarter, the Flashes began to rally. Usama Young intercepted a Matt Bohnet pass to set up Jerry Flowers’ 2-yard touchdown run. The Flashes cut the lead to 27-20 when freshmen Greg Keys scored from three yards out. After a failed onside-kick attempt, the Flashes’ defense held and Kent State got the ball back with 1:32 to go. After a pass interference call moved the ball to the Flashes’ 35-yard line, Darran Mathews jumped in front and intercepted Brown’s next pass to seal the win for the Eagles.

Brown was 29-of-45 for 243 yards with one touchdown and one interception for the game. He set career highs in attempts, completions and yards.

While the defense played well in the second half, it’s still lacking discipline.

In the first quarter, the Flashes’ defense jumped offsides two plays in a row.

“We’ve done it all year and everybody sees us on films,” Martin said. “They continue to try to draw us offsides, and our guys haven’t matured enough to stay onsides.”

The story for weeks has been to work on discipline, but judging from Saturday’s performance, that is yet to change for the Flashes.

“(We need to work on) consistency on every single play,” senior linebacker Jon Sessler said. “It’s not about the talent. We’re just not consistent right now and we’re not mature enough to handle this defense right now.”

The consistency is yet to happen for the Flashes. Kent State gave up a touchdown on the Eagles’ first drive of the game and continued to put up a poor performance for the rest of the first half.

“It’s been the story of our defense all year,” Sessler said. “We give up a big play here and there and that’s what kills us. Every time we give up a big play, it’s a touchdown and then there’s flashes of brilliance and then we give them a huge play and it absolutely kills us.”

Sessler has been one of the few constants on the defense. In every game this season, Sessler has had at least 10 tackles. He posted a new career high of 17 tackles on Saturday.

The defensive game started to pick up in the second half when the Flashes’ defense was able to stop the Eagles from scoring in the fourth quarter. But it was too little, too late.

The Flashes have the week off to regroup and will play at Navy on Oct. 15.

“The question about us is can we play with our expectations,” Martin said. “Right now we cannot. We’ve got an open date and we’ve got six games coming down the road and can we play with an expectation, that’s the next question. Now with these two weeks can we get ourselves in the ship righted and go play? That’s the issue at hand.”

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