Flashes face burning questions

Joey Simon

Senior defensive lineman Daniel Muir dives to tackle a Southeast Missouri player. The Flashes won 33-12 in the home opener at Dix Stadium.

Credit: Jason Hall

There are a lot of questions that will be answered tomorrow at Dix Stadium when the Flashes take on Miami in their Homecoming game. The answers will show whether the Flashes are ready to become a contender in the Mid-American Conference, or if it’s another year of struggles for Kent State football.

Will Kent State prove itself a contender?

The Flashes will get their first chance to show everyone they’re no longer the cellar dwellers of the MAC. Kent State coach Doug Martin now has the offensive scheme he wants. If it falters against a struggling Miami defense, it could be a long year for the Flashes.

It’s been the tale of two teams in the first two weeks of the season. After a defensive struggle in their first game against Michigan State, the Flashes’ offense played well. Then last week against Southeast Missouri State, the defense got back to form while the offense stuttered. Kent State is going to have to click on both sides of the ball to beat an explosive Miami team.

Which Michael Machen will show up?

After an impressive game against Big Ten giant Michigan State, quarterback Michael Machen took a step back against a much weaker team in Southeast Missouri State.

If the Flashes expect to win tomorrow, and throughout the year for that matter, Machen is going to have to play with the poise and confidence he did in week one.

While Machen threw for two touchdowns last week, Martin wasn’t pleased with his pocket presence. Martin said after a constant blitz start to the game, Machen became a bit skittish – to steal a term off Butch Davis – in the pocket and was forcing the ball downfield. Truth be told, Southeast Missouri State stopped blitzing in the second half, Martin said, and was merely showing blitz and backing out of it after the snap.

Machen does have a few things going his way. Miami gave up an astounding 569 yards of total offense, including 356 through the air last week against Central Michigan. That bodes well for the pass-happy Flashes who have rushed for a total of 38 yards on the season.

Can the defense contain the Redhawks?

While Miami is 0-2, its offense is very explosive and could pose problems for the Kent State defense, particularly the young secondary.

The defense, too, has been quite the Jeckyll and Hyde thus far. After being overmatched against Michigan State, the Flashes kept Southeast Missouri State out of the end zone for the first three quarters and had four takeaways.

The defense will need to keep that momentum as they face a Redhawks offense that was No. 4 in the MAC last season and No. 22 in the nation. Miami quarterback Josh Betts threw for nearly 400 yards in last week’s 38-37 loss.

It will be vital that the Kent State defense applies pressure against Miami. Furthermore, they have to get to Betts. In week one against Ohio State, Betts looked rattled and uncomfortable after the Buckeyes laid a few hits on him. The Flashes will need to do the same to force the second-year starter into making mistakes.

While it’s still very early in the season, this game is more than just a Homecoming for the Flashes. It’s the most important game in Martin’s young coaching career, and it could tell the tale of the rest of the season for the Flashes.

Contact sports editor Joey Simon at [email protected].