Winners vs. injured: Football looks to end BGSU’s streak in MAC East showdown

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

A banged up Kent State football team will face a hot Bowling Green team Wednesday in a Mid-American Conference East showdown.

BGSU has won three-straight MAC games and is tied for first at 4-1 in conference play and 5-4 overall. The Falcons have given up only 18 points in their past three games.

The Flashes come in at 3-6 on the year. KSU is in fifth place in the East with a 2-3 MAC record.

“There have been lessons all through the year,” coach Sean Lewis said. “Some we’ve learned, and some that we haven’t that keep popping up. There is work to be done that we have to do today, and we can’t put it off till tomorrow.”

The playing status of two KSU’s leading receivers are in question:

  • Redshirt junior wide receiver Dante Cephas, who ranks 28th in the nation in receiving yards with 731 and three touchdowns. Cephas did not play last game due to a lower body injury, and his status is unknown. Cephas is the MAC’s third leading receiver in total yards.
  • Redshirt sophomore Devontez Walker, the MAC’s fifth leading receiver with 630 yards and eight touchdowns. He exited Tuesday’s Ball State game with an injury after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter.

Lewis said there is “nothing new to report” on Walker. His status for this week is unknown.

“We have to just continue to treat that core injury and get him to a spot where he is confident and comfortable to go on Wednesday night,” he said.

KSU is second in the MAC in total offense, averaging 431 yards per game. Junior running back Marquez Cooper is the nation’s 12th best rusher with 1,013 yards on the season. He is the MAC’s second leading rusher and has nine touchdowns on the season.

Kent State’s rushing offense is ranked 18th nationally and first in the MAC, averaging 211.3 yards per game.

Redshirt junior Collin Schlee returned from a one-game absence due to a right knee injury.

In KSU’s 27-20 loss against Ball State Tuesday, Schlee passed for 183 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 216.38 yards per game before that performance.

Bowling Green is the MAC’s top pass-rushing defense. The team has 33 sacks on the year. Senior defensive lineman Karl Brooks is third in the MAC with seven sacks, and the Falcons are tied for second in the nation in team sacks.

“Their defensive front is one of the most active in the conference,” Lewis said. “They cause a lot of havoc upfront.”

The Falcons have beat Miami, Central Michigan and Western Michigan –  who they defeated 13-9 Wednesday. Bowling Green is tied for first place in a three-way tie in the MAC East with Ohio and Buffalo.

Last year, the team went 4-8. Scot Loeffler has coached the team for four seasons.

“They have an older team with a lot of returning production that have been in a lot of battles together,” Lewis said. “So they are a connected football team, they have been through a lot of adversity together.”

Senior quarterback Matt McDonald has started in all but one game in the last three seasons. He sat out against Mississippi State on Sept. 24th due to an injury.

McDonald is the MAC’s fifth-leading passer with 1,781 passing yards on the season. He has 16 passing touchdowns and has the fewest interceptions thrown in the MAC with just three.

“We have to make him uncomfortable in the pocket,” Lewis said. “We have to do a really good job utilizing our rushing attack to set up their play-action passing game, and they do a really good job of keeping him clean and keeping him up right.”

The Falcons have eight receivers with over 100 yards this season. Kent State has three.

All eight of those receivers have at least one touchdown reception. Kent State only has three players with at least one touchdown reception.

“They have dynamic players in a lot of different spots,” Lewis said. “The distribution of who is getting the touches is very balanced so that means you have to be ball aware and man aware on every single snap.”

Kent State’s offense has struggled in the passing game, giving up 282.8 yards a game. The Flashes are the MAC’s second-worst passing defense.

Senior wide receiver Odieu Hiliare leads BGSU in receiving yards with 426 and four touchdowns. He is the MAC’s 20th-leading receiver.

Sophomore running back Jaison Patterson is his team’s leading back with 442 rushing yards on the season and one touchdown. He is 13th in the MAC in rushing yards.

“They have a quarterback that is very accurate and very efficient,” Lewis said. “They lean on a really good rushing attack that is averaging over 115 yards per game, and they are very balanced because they are throwing it for around 220 yards per game.”

Bowling Green doesn’t put up big offensive numbers. The team is 10th in the MAC in total yards per game, averaging 334.1. The Falcons’ defense is ninth in the conference, giving up 418.6 yards per game.

Including Wednesday, Kent State has three games left in the regular season.

The Flashes play Eastern Michigan (5-4 overall and 2-3 in the MAC) Nov. 16 and Buffalo Nov. 28. To be bowl eligible, they must win out the rest of the season.

“It has always been moment to moment – it is not even week to week,” Lewis said. “I can’t concern myself about the future. The only thing I can do with the past is to learn from it or it is going to repeat itself again.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bowling Green.

Jacob Hansen is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]