Junior offensive lineman Nate Manning was knocked unconscious for a few minutes during the fourth quarter of the Kent vs. Navy game on Saturday. It was later known that Manning only suffered a concussion. Also, senior linebacker Jon Sessler tore his ACL i
Credit: Steve Schirra
Kent State football’s 34-31 loss at Navy left the Flashes broken down and beaten up.
But at the same time the team is physically strained and weakened, its hopes are high and its spirits are up.
The Flashes (1-5, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) lost more than just a game on Saturday, they lost one of the best linebackers in the NCAA.
Senior linebacker Jon Sessler left Saturday’s contest with a knee injury late in the first half.
“Sessler’s got a torn ACL,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said in a Monday press conference. “He’ll be out for the season.”
Sessler was one of the top linebackers in the NCAA, the No. 4 linebacker in the MAC and the Flashes’ No. 1 linebacker.
He has helped lead the Flashes defense this season and his position will be hard to fill.
“We’re going to move Derek Burrell over to Jon’s spot,” Martin said, “and we’ll go with Derek, Stevon Moss, Cedrick Maxwell and Joe Crivella as our four inside linebackers. They are going to have to step up and make plays for us this week. Against a good running team, it will be important that they fill their gaps and play their responsibilities.”
Martin said he has been disappointed with the defense’s performance recently as well.
“Obviously we are disappointed that we haven’t stopped people that way we did last year, particularly our run defense hasn’t been as good,” Martin said. “I think a lot of that is our opponents are better. Michigan State is a very good offensive team, Miami is improved running the ball, Ohio and Eastern Michigan are both getting better and Navy, they’re going to do that to just about everybody.”
The defense’s biggest problem has been stopping the run.
Martin said the linebackers need to do a better job of stepping up to make plays.
“We need to get better against the run,” Martin said. “Our line has played well – against Navy, the fullback didn’t hurt us at all – and our safeties have been good. There’s a lot of stress on our linebackers and they are going to have to step up and make big plays this week.”
But not just the defense has had problems.
“After every game, sometimes there’s yelling at themselves,” junior wide receiver Najah Pruden said. “There’s so much talent and we expected so much for this season and things are going the way there are.”
Pruden was nominated for MAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Overall this season, Pruden has caught for 502 yards and averages 20.9 yards per catch.
Pruden said even though the team’s record isn’t spectacular, he still has faith in the team.
“I keep telling people that we can’t lose faith, we just have to keep moving on,” Pruden said. “We’re almost there, we just got to push through that doorway. I believe that after this past weekend, that we’re there. I pray that for the rest of these games that nobody loses faith and we keep going strong through until we get this win.””
Pruden said the team won’t win if everyone keeps dwelling on the past.
“When you have another loss, you just have to take it out of your mind and go to the next week,” Pruden said. “You can’t live in the past or you’ll stay there forever.”
Contact assistant sports editor and football reporter Kali Price at [email protected]