Freshmen are light in tunnel

Kali Price

Kent State’s Cedrick Maxwell (54) dives over a Northern Illinois player on Oct. 22 with a 34-3 loss. The Flashes will look to break their five-game losing streak when they play at Western Michigan on Saturday.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Kent State football hasn’t won a game since Sept. 10.

And that win was over Southeast Missouri State – a Division I-AA team.

The season of high expectations has been a major let-down for the Flashes, who are now 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the Mid-American Conference.

The biggest disappointment of the season thus far was the 34-3 beating the team received from Northern Illinois on Saturday.

“Northern is not just big,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said in a Monday press conference, “but they are running blockers and they pull a lot; many of their schemes are pulling schemes. And they are athletic. They are really good on screens, they are good on bootlegs where they pullout in front of the quarterback to protect.”

The Huskies tore apart the Kent State defense, scoring four touchdowns in the first half.

“It wasn’t the defensive line that was hurting us. What was hurting us was the linebacker play,” Martin said.

Without senior linebacker Jon Sessler, who tore his ACL during the 34-31 loss at Navy on Oct. 15, the Flashes’ defense has taken a hard blow.

“Our linebacker play right now without Jon Sessler is a little bit of an adventure and that’s where we got hurt,” Martin said. “I thought (senior) Danny Muir, (redshirt sophomore) Colin Ferrell and (senior) Justin Parrish all played pretty well on Saturday.”

But Saturday’s beating wasn’t just emotional for the Flashes, it was physical as well.

“We lost (redshirt freshman center) Josh Perry to an MCL injury, so he is likely out for a while,” Martin said.

Other than Sessler, the Flashes were plagued with injuries before the game even started.

“(Offensive tackles) Nate Manning and Daniel Carter both missed the game on Saturday with concussions,” Martin said, “and we are unsure about when they will be back – though Carter is probably close. Shawn Donaldson, who was our No. 2 center up until he got hurt at Navy, is still out with a stress fracture in his foot. (Redshirt sophomore center) Kiff Kinkead is battling through some tough injuries. (Redshirt freshman wide receiver) Tony Smith had his knee scoped late last week to clean up some cartilage and he will probably be out for a few weeks. It might be easier to go over the list of who’s healthy, to be honest with you.”

As the Flashes are nursing themselves back to health, Martin said he is constantly trying to build up the program at Kent State.

Martin said that after Saturday’s game, he would like to do the same thing with the Flashes that Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak did with the Huskies.

“They have done a great job and they are an athletic, big, strong group,” Martin said. “And I told our guys after the game, ‘That is what you want to look like as a football program.’ That’s the model of what you want to chase and that’s what we’re chasing right here right now. We’re not there, but Joe Novak wasn’t there in his second year either. I have one recruiting class here right now and about sixteen of them are playing right now as true freshman, so we’ll be pretty good here before long.”

Martin said building a program at Kent State will be hard to do.

“It is not easy when you look at the books – the past record of Kent State football – it’s not like a program that has been good for a long time,” Martin said. “I have one recruiting class here and it’s a good one, we’re going to get good in a hurry. Joe Novak said to me that, ‘You guys are light years ahead of where we were our second year.’ And I take what he says to heart because he has the experience of doing it and he took over a program that never won before he got there. It wasn’t like a Bowling Green where they have won before and he could inherit a program. Novak built one and he’s got a lot of wisdom about it and I try to use him as much as I can ever since I’ve been here and we’re going in the right direction.”

But Martin said the best asset he already has to building up the program is his current freshman class.

“We really hit on this freshman class,” Martin said. “You know all these guys that are playing from the freshman kicker (Reid Macko) on up, we really hit on all these kids, and they are going to be a fun group to work with. And these are the guys that are going to be the foundation for us to build this program.”

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