Five factors heading into Kent State’s game against Ball State

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Quarterback Dustin Crum (14) hands the ball off to Xavier Williams (18), during the football game on Nov. 14, 2019. The Flashes beat the University of Buffalo 30-27.

Kent State is coming off the largest fourth quarter comeback in the FBS this season. They need two more wins to become bowl eligible. The first game is against offensive juggernaut Ball State. Here’s five factors that will impact Saturday’s game:

1. Slowing down running back Caleb Huntley will be important to forcing 3-and-outs.

Don’t let the win against Buffalo fool you. Kent State’s rushing defense is still bad. They allowed 245 yards on 51 attempts (4.8 avg). They only forced the Bulls to lose seven rushing yards.

Huntley is a top-5 running back in the MAC. He finished with 106 yards on 24 carries in a 45-44 loss to Central Michigan last week. His 106 yards were not even a team-high. Walter Fletcher added 115 yards on 15 carries, including a 49-yard run.

“Their offensive line is really stout, they’re really good,” coach Sean Lewis said. “They love running the outside zone, which is what we’ve seen a lot of the past couple of weeks from Toledo and Buffalo.”

2. The Flashes cannot come out slow offensively or the game will turn into a blowout.

Ball State has scored over 25 points in seven games. The Flashes offense had 112 total yards on 40 plays through three quarters. They will need to put together long drives to keep Ball State’s offense on the sideline because if you pair Kent State’s struggles with its fast pace of play this game could be a blowout by halftime.

“As long as we believe we’ll be OK,” Lewis said. “No matter what kind of style the game is if we believe we’ll find a way to get it done.”

3. The defense will have to pressure Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt if they want to have a chance to win.

Plitt is averaging 239.3 passing yards per game, while completing 63 percent of his throws and throwing for a MAC-best 20 touchdowns so far this season. 

Ball State is currently looking to snap a three-game losing streak. During that stretch, Plitt has thrown for under 200 yards in a game twice.  

4. Junior quarterback Dustin Crum will need to have a better overall game if Kent State hopes to keep up with Ball State’s offense.

Crum failed to reach the 200-yard passing mark last week against Buffalo. Much of his production came during the comeback, but he was limited for the first 52 minutes of play. 

He finished with -6 rushing yards, which was the second time this season he failed to gain any yards on the ground, while the other game was against Wisconsin (-8 yards).

He will also need to continue to take care of the ball. He only has two interceptions this season, but Ball State’s defense leads the MAC with 13 interceptions. 

“They do a fabulous job attacking the ball and forcing turnovers,” Lewis said. “You can tell they put an emphasis on ‘See ball, get ball’ and they do a good job poking the ball free.”

5. Sophomore running back Xavier Williams will need to have another career-day.

Lewis has said before that he likes to “ride the hot hand,” specifically at running back. Williams is undoublety the hot hand after a career performance against Buffalo. He finished with two touchdowns and 11 touches, including two catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. 

“I believe in our kids,” Lewis said. “I know what they’re capable of, and I believe that when we’re locked in and focused we can do all of the things that we want to do.”

Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected]