Flashes fumble, lose in season opener

Joshua Hudson

Michigan State junior linebacker David Herron Jr., right, assists sophomore linebacker Rob Tabatchnick in tackling Kent State’s redshirt freshman wide receiver Tony Smith during Saturday’s game at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Golden Flas

Credit: Jason Hall

Michigan State running back Jehuu Caulcrick (30) pushes away from Kent State defenders before rushing to the endzone and scoring.

Credit: Jason Hall

EAST LANSING, MICH. — It seems the Michigan State offense left off where it finished last season.

Unfortunately Kent State’s defense didn’t do the same.

The Spartans racked up 685 yards of total offense, including a school-record of 487 yards at the half, in a 49-14 victory over the Flashes Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium.

Kent State (0-1) finished last season with the top-rated defense in the Mid-American Conference and the 17th best in the nation. But the Flashes looked nothing like that against Michigan State.

“We were faced with a Michigan State offense that gave everyone fits in the Big Ten last year,” said Kent State coach Doug Martin of the Big Ten’s No. 1 offense last season. “I wasn’t thrilled with our defense, but our kids didn’t lay down.”

The rushing defense was especially troubling for the Flashes. The Spartans rushed for 354 yards on 55 carries. Jehuu Caulcrick led Michigan State (1-0) with 140 yards on 14 carries, including three touchdowns. Jason Teague and Javon Ringer also added rushing touchdowns.

Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton added 60 yards on the ground. He also had a good day through the air, completing 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

Martin said he knew his team might have some trouble playing physical with the Spartans. The Michigan State offensive line used their size and cleared up holes for the running game.

“That offensive line is like an eclipse because they can block out the sun,” he said. “We knew that we were out-matched upfront coming into this game, but we tried some different things. We moved people around and brought safeties up in the box, but there is only so much you can do.”

Michigan State wasted no time attacking the Kent State defense.

Stanton connected with Kyle Brown for a 6-yard touchdown pass on the opening possession of the game. After a 3-and-out by the Flashes, the Spartans scored again when Caulcrick scored on a 7-yard run to up the lead to 14-0.

Kent State did show some fight when sophomore quarterback Michael Machen connected with running back Tony Smith on a 7-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 14-7, but that’s as close as the Flashes would get.

Machen would connect with Najah Pruden in the second quarter for a 31-yard touchdown pass, but that would be the last time the Flashes would see the end zone.

Machen finished his first start with a 31-of-52 performance for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He said he was happy with how he played but still needs to improve.

“I started the game off jittery, but I don’t think I played bad,” he said. “We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on but that happens in football. I need to throw the ball better, but I think our offense played well.”

The Flashes will get a chance to improve Saturday when they host Southeast Missouri State. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Dix Stadium.

“I thought we laid out a good foundation and I think we are going to win our share of games,” Martin said. “I promise you that.”

Contact football reporter Joshua Hudson at [email protected].