Junior defensive back Andre Kirkland sacks Southeast Missouri’s quarterback sophomore Mike Haley in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s football game. The Flashes won the game 33-12.
Credit: Ben Breier
Despite being a bit “hungover” from their season-opening loss to Michigan State, the Kent State football team regrouped to pull out a 33-12 win over Southeast Missouri State on Saturday.
“I was really proud of our team for coming out here and getting the win,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said. “We were still quite a little hungover from that Michigan State loss I believe in a lot of ways. The kids are really hurt over that, but they came back and took care of business today.”
Taking care of business meant winning the home opener, setting a few career records and also breaking a school record. And it was the defense leading the charge.
Despite being outgained 295 to 195, the defense of the Flashes (1-1) forced four turnovers and kept the Redhawks (0-2) out of the end zone until the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand. Yet sloppy play by both teams hid the defense’s rebirth.
Collectively, the teams totaled 30 penalties, just six shy of the NCAA record for one game, for 254 yards. The Flashes endured three of those penalties during the Redhawks’ first drive, setting up Southeast Missouri with a first and goal on the 5-yard line.
The Redhawks, however, weren’t able to convert as Kent State sophomore Jack Williams made an interception in the end zone.
While the turnover didn’t result in a touchdown for the Flashes, the defense did manage to get the ball back for sophomore quarterback Michael Machen. Machen responded by capping a six play 38-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to freshman Shawn Lewis.
The Redhawks let the Flashes earn another touchdown after their next drive came up empty. Machen picked up his second and final touchdown of the night and put the Flashes up 14-0 with a 17-yard strike to Marcus Hill.
The defense then came up with its second turnover of the game. Senior Justin Parrish sacked Southeast Missouri State quarterback Mike Haley, forcing a fumble. Senior linebacker Bruce Rice picked up the ball for the Flashes’ and rumbled eight yards for a touchdown.
The play of the defense showed the Flashes’ have what it takes to get back to where they left off last season, as the number one defense in the Mid-American Conference.
“I wanted to see our defense re-establish themselves,” Martin said, “and they really did that. That was encouraging.”
Parrish added another sack later in the contest, giving him 18.5 career sacks, breaking Kent State’s career sack record of 18.
“I knew we were going to get a lot of pass drives so we took advantage of it to make plays,” Parrish said. “I guess that my name’s in the books, it’s a great feeling. I really can’t put it in words.”
Offensively, the Flashes didn’t perform as well as during the Michigan State game, but Martin attributes that to the Redhawks’ ability to read the Flashes’ passing-style offense.
“Offensively we took a step backwards today,” Martin said after the game. “But before everybody panics, that’s the evolution of a young quarterback. We’re still dealing with a young quarterback that’s just in his sophomore year. Michael (Machen), early on, was playing really well and handling the blitz well, and as the game progressed, he really started seeing everything as being a blitz and kind of got out of the framework of our offense. We really kind of stuttered there, particularly in the second half with the offense.”
Machen completed 17-of-42 passes, threw two touchdowns and was picked off once. Unlike his performance a week earlier when he passed for 293 yards, Machen only threw for 136 yards. He was also sacked a total of five times.
“It’s football, that’s what happens,” Machen said. “Quarterback’s get hit, that’s how it works. Overall it’s a win, so we’ll take it.”
Martin said he wasn’t concerned with the offense’s performance. He said it was a good learning experience.
“We’re going to see the blitz until we learn how to handle it,” Martin said. “We handled it well at Michigan State, but that’s the evolution of our offense, that’s the evolution of quarterbacks and you just get better each week.”
Despite Machen’s setbacks, the rest of the offense stepped up during the second half of the game with a double pass that ended in a touchdown from senior receiver Derrick Bush to sophomore receiver Jon Drager, putting the Flashes up 28-6.
Bush’s touchdown pass was the second of his career.
Senior kicker Travis Mayle ended the scoring with 1:37 left with a 38-yard, the 35th of his career. Mayle’s field goal helped him total 203 points for his career and pushed him up to the number five ranking on Kent State’s all-time scoring list. Mayle also tied the school record for most career field goals.
“I’m really encouraged with our kicking game,” Martin said. “Our kicking game is really good right now. Travis Mayle hit a long field goal and we didn’t have that last year.”
The Flashes will begin Mid-American Conference play against Miami of Ohio at 4 p.m. Saturday at Dix Stadium.
Contact assistant sports editor Kali Price at [email protected]