Missed chances

Joey Simon

Junior Kent State defensive back Gary Ham and Miami of Ohio receiver Ryne Robinson go up for a pass from Redhawks’ quarterback Josh Betts. The Flashes lost 27-10 to Miami.

Credit: Jason Hall

Senior linebacker Jon Sessler goes in to tackle Miami of Ohio’s tight end Dan Tyler at Saturday’s Homecoming game. The Flashes lost to the RedHawks 27-10.

Credit: Jason Hall

Everything was ready for Kent State’s Home-coming out party Saturday at Dix Stadium.

Everything but the football team that is.

The Flashes fought hard to beat the returning Mid-American Conference East Division champs and emerge as a contender in the MAC but had too many missed opportunities in their conference opener, losing 27-10 to Miami of Ohio.

Kent State couldn’t take advantage of a number of RedHawk miscues and failed to score on three trips inside the Miami red zone. On the other hand, Miami scored on five of its six chances inside the Kent State 20-yard line and converted 10 of 18 times on third down, compared to four of 17 by Kent State.

Despite the loss, Kent State coach Doug Martin was adamant that his team played well and said he still expects big things from the Flashes.

“We’re going to blossom,” he said. “I thought it was going to happen today, but it’s going to happen soon. All the pieces are going to fall together and we’re going to be a good football team before it’s over.”

The Flashes’ offense was inconsistent and couldn’t capitalize on five Miami fumbles, two recovered by Kent State (1-2, 0-1 MAC). The Flashes’ opportunistic defense forced three turnovers, but struggled to stop the run, giving up 171 yards and a touchdown to Miami running back Brandon Murphy.

Miami coach Shane Montgomery, who earned his first win as head coach of the RedHawks (1-2, 1-1 MAC), said after a heart-breaking 38-37 loss to Central Michigan last week, the game was a must win.

“We needed to get the feeling of winning a ball game. We hadn’t done that in a while,” Montgomery said of the Miami’s four-game losing streak dating back to last season. “We needed our running game to step up. We talked about it all week. If teams are going to … take away our receivers and play the safeties deep with seven men in the box, we have got to run the ball.”

The RedHawks got the ball rolling early, jumping to a 10-0 first quarter lead with a 1-yard touchdown by Murphy and a 40-yard field goal by Todd Soderquist. The score stayed 10-0 despite two drives deep into Miami territory by the Flashes and a wild finish to the first half.

With just over two minutes remaining in the half, Kent State drove 73 yards to the Miami 18 yard line. Kent State quarterback Michael Machen was then intercepted as he was hit from behind and the ball dropped into the hands of defensive lineman Otto Linwood. Linwood rumbled 51 yards before Marcus Hill smacked the ball out of his hands. Luke Tillman of the Flashes recovered the fumble and Kent State drove to Miami’s 25-yard line. Yet, Kent State couldn’t get on the board as Travis Mayle’s 42-yard field goal sailed wide left.

The Flashes’ gritty defense kept the team in the game, and Kent State crept its way back. After a fake field goal on Miami’s 23-yard line was unsuccessful, Kent had a 52-yard drive capped by a Mayle 39-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 10-3 with 10:45 left in the third quarter. Yet, Miami answered with an 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass from Josh Betts to Martin Nance. The teams continued to trade blows as the Flashes scored on a 61-yard pass from Machen to Derrick Bush on the following possession, making the score 17-10 at the 14:57 mark of the fourth quarter.

That’s as close as the Flashes would get, however, as they failed to gain a first down for the rest of the game. Miami added a field goal and another touchdown pass from Betts to Nance to seal the win.

The Flashes rushed for a net total of 31 yards in the game and have a total of 69 rushing yards this season.

Montgomery said the lack of a balanced attack by the Flashes aided Miami in its preparation.

“Most games you go in the game and say ‘You have to stop the run.’ It really doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you have to stop the run,” he said. “We knew going in that this was a game that we didn’t have to stop the run first; we were going to have stop them from making big plays, and for the most part we were able to do that.”

Sophomore running back Jon Drager, who was getting his first start, did have 34 yards on two carries in the first half before leaving with a knee injury that was later found to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Martin defended the running game by saying without sacks, the Flashes averaged over four yards per carry. He also said he was very pleased with the play of Machen and the defense.

Martin’s optimism didn’t spill over to senior linebacker Jon Sessler, however.

“We can go beat the crap out of (Division) I-AA teams anytime we want,” said Sessler, referring to last week’s win over Southeast Missouri State. “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.”

Contact sports editor Joey Simon at [email protected].