With one win, Flashes have room to improve

Kali Price

Freshman running back Jerry Flowers pushes through the defense during the Ohio game. In his three games played, Flowers has 57 rushing yards for the season and will have his second start of the season on Saturday at Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m.

Credit: Steve Schirra

A 1-3 record has not only made the Kent State football team want to win more than ever, it has added more pressure as well.

“In regards to dealing with the pressure of winning, our kids haven’t experienced winning and we don’t have that tradition of winning here,” said Kent State coach Doug Martin in a Monday press conference, “so the kids don’t look at this as a game, they look at it as ‘Oh man, we have to have a winning season.’ That’s not even in the picture right now. And every mistake they make they look at it as less and less of a chance to have a winning season.”

With two Mid-American Conference losses, the Flashes are essentially out of contention for the MAC title, but are still trying to put together a winning season.

With only nine seniors, the Flashes may be a young team, but to Martin, that’s not an excuse anymore and the team still has the potential to go 7-0 in the remainder of the season.

That especially is not an excuse for freshmen running backs Jerry Flowers and Greg Keys.

“They’re not freshmen anymore, they’ve played four games. That’s what my message was to them yesterday. I don’t want to hear the ‘we’re young, we’re freshmen’ anymore. They’ve played enough now, they can go make things happen.”

Flowers has definitely made a difference in the Flashes’ offense. Flowers’ touchdown in Saturday’s 35-32 loss to Ohio was the Flashes’ first rushing touchdown of the season. Flowers gained 41 rushing yards and 24 receiving yards in the game.

Martin said his play has warranted him a starting position.

“Jerry Flowers will start again this week at running back,” Martin said, “he really played a pretty good game. He has taken the job, he ran hard, gave us a couple of explosion plays in the running game, and had the score been closer, we’d have been able to run it the whole second half also like we did in the first. He gave us something in there and he caught the ball well, he made some plays in the passing game, too. Flowers held on to the ball well Saturday, and hasn’t had ball security problems and it’s been the same as in practice.”

Other freshmen have made an impact on the offense as well.

After sophomore quarterback Michael Machen went down with a knee injury, freshman quarterback Jon Brown came into the game and started to rally the Flashes in an almost-successful comeback attempt.

“Jon and I were probably the only two not surprised at what he did when he came in,” Martin said. “Jon was not highly recruited out of high school because of his height (5-foot-10), but when you watch his high school film, what you saw Saturday was exactly what you saw in that film. It was the same style of offense and I know he’s not six-foot-three, but he has great field presence, he knows how to play the game and he’s got great poise. As a freshman, he ran in there and just executed perfectly.”

Machen’s injury is a strained MCL. Machen is now day-to-day and starting Saturday’s game at Eastern Michigan is questionable.

If Machen’s play is limited, Brown will step up into Machen’s leadership role.

“I wouldn’t put Jon (Brown) in a role of starting because it’s tough, but I think he’s definitely earned playing time,” Martin said. “And that may help Michael, too, help him settle down and get a different perspective from watching on the sidelines a little bit. It’ll relax him and he may be able to relax instead of putting all of the pressure on himself.”

But other parts of the Flashes’ game have been making their mark as well.

In a total turnaround from the 2004 season, special teams has shown its strength, especially senior punter Joshua Brazen.

“Josh Brazen is kicking the lights out of the ball,” Martin said, “he’s first in the MAC right now in punting, he’s really having a great year, and really our entire punt team has been a weapon. At least the kicking game is a bright sign for us right now. And now we’re able to directional kick with him too, we’re able to call out the sideline we want him to kick towards, he’s playing very well.”

Brazen was named to the watch list for the Ray Guy Award on Monday. The annual award is presented to the top Division I-A punter. After four games, Brazen is the best punter in the MAC and is averaging a MAC-best 46.2 yards. His recent success has pushed his career average up to 41.5 yards which is the top career average in Kent State history.

But as the Flashes’ 1-3 record shows, the success has been individual. In order to change that, Martin said that the Flashes are going one game at a time to finish the season with a winning record.

“It should be one game at a time, one play at a time,” Martin said. “To get them to focus on that has been really difficult, because they want to win so badly that the more they see it slip away, the tighter and tighter they get and they just need to learn to deal with that.”

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