Collin Schlee’s early exit ends in football’s exit out of bowl eligibility


Mychelle Oliver

Kent State junior running back Marquez Cooper runs for a touchdown against Eastern Michigan during the final home game on Nov. 16, 2022.

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

Kent State’s redshirt junior quarterback Collin Schlee brought his team to a 10-point lead in the second quarter of the Flashes’ last home game of the season.

Then he went down.

And without him, his offense went almost silent.

“It definitely impacted the game,” coach Sean Lewis said. “This game is about players and gameday in particular is about players and players making plays, and when you lose one of your best players that is hard to overcome.”

With just under five minutes left in the half against Eastern Michigan, Schlee broke free on a run. While being tackled, his head was slammed hard on the ground. He was then taken to the sidelines with a trainer after coming up dazed. He then ran to the locker room and did not return.

His team had a 17-7 lead.

Before Schlee went down, KSU had 252 yards of offense. After his exit, Kent State had 105 yards.

Eastern Michigan improved to 7-4 on the year and 4-3 in the MAC. The team is now 5-1 on the road. Kent State falls to 4-7 on the year and 3-4 in the Mid-American Conference. The team needed to win this game to be bowl eligible.

“We have a week where a lot of people are going to say ‘hey you don’t have anything to play for, you have your seventh loss, you are not going to get to bowl eligibility,’ all those things, but to me it’s bigger than that,” Lewis said. “We have everything to play for this week and it is going to test the character and resolve of our young men.”

Slow start to first-quarter lead 

It was a scoreless first quarter until 5:16 left in the quarter.

Graduate student quarterback Taylor Powell hit graduate student wide receiver Hassan Beydoun for a 13-yard touchdown reception. The Eagles took a 7-0 lead.

Before Eastern Michigan’s scoring drive, both teams had at most five plays per drive.

Redshirt junior Collin Schlee answered back on the next drive, throwing for 39 yards to senior wide receiver Ja’Shaun Poke with three minutes left in the quarter.

With one second left in the first quarter, Eastern Michigan went for a fake punt but turned the ball over at the KSU 40-yard line. This set Kent State up at its own 40-yard line.

Flashes score twice, then Schlee goes down 

Just under a minute into the second quarter, Schlee threw his second 39-yard pass of the night to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Devontez Walker.

Walker, after being held on a defensive pass-interference, made the catch at the EMU 19-yard line.

“You get the pass interference, and you get the catch –that is how you get recognized because you are one of the best,” Lewis said. “He is one of the best players in this league and am very excited about his future.”

Sophomore kicker Andrew Glass hit a 36-yard field goal. KSU led 10-7.

Kent State sophomore Andrew Glass runs in for a kick return against Eastern Michigan during the game on November 16, 2022. (Mychelle Oliver)

After a 23-yard pass to Walker in the previous play, junior running back Marquez Cooper ran it in from the one-yard line with 7:50 left for a 17-7 KSU lead.

With 4:52 left in the half, Schlee broke free for a 21-yard run on a read option. Going down, he slammed his head on the turf. He was then helped off the field.

Freshman quarterback Devin Kargman, who had previously totaled 335 yards over his four games played, entered the game.

“It’s a testament to him and a tip of the cap to him with how unselfish he was,” Lewis said. “Because he played in four games, and as we are coming down the stretch here with the redshirt rules, if he played in any more he was going to burn a year of eligibility, and he didn’t even flinch.”

Eastern Michigan could not score in the second quarter. Kent State hasn’t given up a point in the second quarter in two games.

Schlee finished the half with 150 passing yards and a touchdown and 45 rushing yards. He ran to the locker room toward the end of the half with his helmet on.

Walker led the team in receiving with 73 yards in the first half. Poke was the second-leading receiver with 62 yards and a touchdown. Cooper had 53 rushing yards and a touchdown at the half.

“Ever since Ball State, [Walker] hasn’t been 100 percent,” Lewis said. “He realizes and understands that because of his skillset that he brings to the table that his 80 percent is better than whoever we can put in at 100 percent.”

Walker left the Nov. 1 game against Ball State with a core injury.

The Flashes had 257 yards of total offense. EMU had just 185 total yards at the half.

Powell had 129 passing yards and a touchdown at the half. Beydoun led the Eagles in receiving at the half with 65 yards and a touchdown. The MAC’s fourth-leading rusher Samson Evans had 46 rushing yards on 16 attempts, averaging 2.5 yards per carry.

A Schlee-less offense struggles 

Schlee was not on the sideline to start the third quarter.

Eastern Michigan scored first in the second half. Powell threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to graduate student wide receiver Tanner Knue, bringing the game to within three 17-14 with 9:23 left in the third quarter.

Sophomore kicker Jesus Gomez tied the game up with 4:14 left in the third quarter 17-17.

Kargman had 13 passing yards in the third quarter, going one for eight. Kent State had 14 yards of total offense in the third quarter.

Eastern Michigan clinches it in the fourth

EMU scored again after Powell completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Knue for his second touchdown of the game. The Eagles took a 24-17 lead with 10:46 left in the game.

Evans ran it in from the one-yard line to extend the lead 31-17 with just 3:51 left in the game.

Forcing EMU to go 5-16 on third down wasn’t enough for Lewis’ defense.

“As good as those individual numbers are on third down and those critical situations, we didn’t do enough,” Lewis said. “We didn’t get off the field enough in a timely manner to do enough so that we could score one more point than them at the end of the day and win.”

For the first time in the second half, Kent State’s offense made it to the end zone with a three-yard run from Cooper. EMU took the game 31-24.

“It took us a quarter to settle in, and you don’t get a ton of reps when you’re not converting first downs,” Lewis said. “Once we settled in, we were able to put a drive together, but it was too little, too late.”

Kent State had 100 yards of offense in the second half. Kargman passed for 91 yards with a completion percentage of 36.8.

Walker led his team with 121 yards receiving. Cooper finished with 80 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Poke totaled 105 receiving yards.

“[Poke] is at a spot where he is feeling as healthy as he probably has all year long,” Lewis said. “He is an explosive playmaker that has done a lot of good for us in the past and is going to do a lot of good for us in the future.”

Kent State senior and wide receiver Ja’Shaun Poke warms up before the game against Eastern Michigan on November 16, 2022. (Mychelle Oliver)

The Flashes had 357 yards of total offense. Before Wednesday, they averaged 429.4 total yards of offense per game.

Powell passed for 315 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 205.3 yards passing per game heading into Dix Stadium. Graduate student Dylan Drummond led the team with 97 receiving yards.

“We didn’t do enough to impact their quarterback,” Lewis said. “He had a very efficient night, going 30-39.”

Evans ended with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown. He matched his average of 95 rushing yards per game. The Eagles had 459 yards of total offense.

Before the game, EMU averaged 342.9 yards of offense.

Neither team had an interception in the game – both have seven on the season.

The Flashes play their final game of the season at Buffalo at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Bulls are 5-5 overall and third in the MAC at 4-2.

“We need to have a level of focus and training in every single snap next week when we go and play Buffalo,” Lewis said. “The only way that is going to happen is if we show up in our preparation and our process.”

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