COLUMN: The truth will set the Flashes free

Joey Simon

It’s time Kent State football coach Doug Martin starts saying it how it is.

Following Saturday’s 27-10 loss to Miami of Ohio, Martin was adamant that his team played well and refused to criticize their play. While there’s no doubt the Flashes have made strides from years past, it was obvious there were a number of missed opportunities and mistakes.

I understand the team is young and they’re going to experience “growing pains” as Martin called them, but praising a team after they’ve just lost their conference opener and homecoming game is not the right approach. Especially when the players sitting right next to him are admitting that they could have played better and won the game.

“We can beat the crap out of (Division) I-AA teams anytime we want,” senior linebacker Jon Sessler said after the loss. “We’ve got to win big-time games like this, and until we do that, we’re going to be the .500 team we’ve been the past two years.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

It seems that Martin is hesitant to rip into his young team to avoid hurting their confidence, but the more he does it, the longer it’s going to take the Flashes to become winners. The defense played very well at times against Miami, and the offense had a number of solid drives, but there was definitely room for improvement.

I was the first person to jump on the Kent State bandwagon after watching the team play well against Michigan State. I praised quarterback Michael Machen, the receiving corps and was quick to dub the Flashes a contender in the Mid-American Conference. I’m not going to take it all back because this team can still make some noise in the MAC. But after a sub-par game against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State and another against Miami, I’m beginning to wonder how fragile the Flashes’ confidence is.

Martin knows this team better than I do. He’s their coach, he’s been there through two-a-days, the tough losses and he’s in the locker room on a daily basis. So, if he thinks eternal optimism is the way to go, then I’m going to think he’s right. Yet if that’s the case, it means the Flashes still don’t have enough confidence in themselves to be a winning football team.

Just a few minutes after Martin finished making excuses for the inconsistent play of Machen, the junior-college transfer said he and the offense didn’t capitalize on the opportunities presented to them by the defense. He added that he could have played better and all but blamed himself for the loss. It was nice to hear him accept the blame. It was by no means Machen’s fault the Flashes lost, but when a quarterback puts a loss on his shoulders, it’s inspiring to the rest of the team, and it’s the type of personality guys want to play for.

Furthermore, while the players were no doubt distraught after the loss, Machen made it clear he and the rest of the team aren’t ready to throw in the towel.

“Our team feels good right now,” he said. “Losing is not fun, but the season isn’t over yet. We knew we could win this game. We’re not down. None of our goals are out the door. We can still win the MAC. This is just the third game of the season.”

You can rip the Kent State football team all you want. But this team has heart, a will to win and, regardless of the overall support they get, is going to lay it all on the line every week for themselves and Coach Martin. But every team has its limit.

While I understand Martin’s approach and why he’s coddling his team, there’s going to come a time when the players are going to get sick of hearing it. And if he continues with it, they may start to lose respect for him.

Martin knows his team, no doubt, I just hope he knows they have a boiling point as well.

Contact sports editor Joey Simon at [email protected].