Two more to go: Football must defeat Eastern Michigan for chance at bowl-game status

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

Kent State’s football team will look to stay in the running for bowl eligibility in its final home game of the season against Eastern Michigan.

The Flashes must win its last two matches to qualify for a bowl game. Last week, the Flashes won at Bowling Green 40-6.

“It was a really good road victory against a good BG team,” coach Sean Lewis said. “We put together a full four quarters and were really pleased by the way that the kids came back and responded yesterday and cleaned up the tape.”

Kent State is 4-6 on the year and fourth in the Mid-American Conference at 3-3. The team has a 3-1 record at home this year.

Eastern Michigan is second in the MAC West with a 6-4 record and a 3-3 record in the MAC. The Eagles have won four of their five road games, the latest being a 34-28 victory over Akron last week.

Fast-paced offense vs. veteran offensive squad

KSU’s offense sits second in the MAC in total yards, averaging 429.4 per game.

Kent State’s offensive leaders are:

  • Junior running back Marquez Cooper, who is 15th in the nation in rushing yards with 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns. He is the second leading running back in the MAC.
  • Redshirt junior wide receiver Dante Cephas, the Flashes leading receiver with 744 yards and three touchdowns. He is 43rd in the nation and third in the MAC in receiving yards. Cephas left the Bowling Green game at the end of the first quarter with an injury and didn’t return.
  • Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Devontez Walker, who is the MAC’s fifth leading receiver with 716 yards. He leads all receivers in the MAC in touchdowns.

There are no updates on Cephas’ status.

“We will know a little bit more as we work through the practices and carry the load this weekend,” Lewis said.

The Flashes are 18th in the nation in rushing yards per game with an average of 210.3 yards per game.

KSU’s redshirt junior quarterback Collin Schlee won MAC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance last week. At Bowling Green, Schlee had 214 yards passing with three touchdowns. He also added 22 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Schlee, who is in his first year as starting QB, is sixth in the MAC in passing with 1,945 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is the MAC’s 16th leading rusher with 403 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

The quarterback has thrown seven interceptions on the season.

EMU’s graduate student quarterback Taylor Powell is eighth in the MAC in passing with 1,232 passing yards and eight touchdowns. The Eagles are ninth in the conference in passing, averaging 203.2 yards per game.

Powell has thrown seven interceptions.

The Eagles have seven different receivers with over 100 yards.

“They are very balanced in their approach,” Lewis said. “There is not anything that is one-sided.  A team that doesn’t beat themselves and has had the sustained stability and consistency that they have had is the type of competition that you have to get excited for.”

Graduate student Tanner Knue is the team’s leading receiver in yards and touchdowns. He has 466 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Senior running back Samson Evans is the MAC’s fourth-leading rusher with 855 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has the second-most rushing touchdowns in the MAC.

“Their tailback is a very physical, bruising runner,” Lewis said. “He has really good feet and more than enough speed to pull away from you — so he is a dynamic back.”

Opportunistic secondaries combine for 14 interceptions

Kent State’s secondary has made five interceptions in the past three games. The team has seven all year.

“When we can generate turnovers, good things happen,” Lewis said, “especially when we can generate a turnover for a touchdown and lead to points like we did the other night.”

Graduate student Marvin Pierre scored the team’s first interception for a touchdown last week. He was awarded MAC Defensive Player of the Week after having nine tackles, one sack, and a pick-six.

The linebacker is the team’s second-leading tackler and is fourth in the MAC with 48 solo tackles and 35 assists.

EMU ranks fourth in the MAC in interceptions with seven.

“Defensively, they have had a philosophical shift a little bit,” Lewis said. “ They have really shifted their identity where they are going to be more man-to-man coverage and cover three, and I think that has allowed their kids to free up and play more confidently.”

Eastern Michigan is fifth in total yards allowed in the MAC, allowing 381.7 yards per game.

Senior defensive linemen Jose Ramirez is second in the MAC in sacks and tied for ninth in the nation with eight sacks. He accounts for half of the team’s sacks.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. Wednesday at Dix Stadium. The game is KSU’s senior night.

“This is the last group of seniors that we inherited and were here from the beginning,” Lewis said. “We have to make sure to send them off the right way.”

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