5 factors heading into Thursday’s game against Buffalo


Junior quarterback Dustin Crum (14) runs for the 11-yard touchdown to cut the Toledo lead to 28-27 with under two minutes left in the third quarter. 

Ian Kreider

A few short weeks ago, they were 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference sitting atop the MAC East for the first time since 2012.

Now the Flashes are 3-6, 2-3 MAC.

Kent State need to win its final three games to be in consideration for a bowl game. 

Here’s some things they have to do in order to secure the first of three wins.

1. Kent State’s run defense needs to play better.

The Flashes allowed 289 yards, four touchdowns and nearly six yards per carry at Toledo on Nov. 5. The Rockets came into the game with the best rushing offense in the conference (245 yards per game). 

The Flashes limited the Toledo offense to a touchdown after allowing 28 points in the first half. The Rockets ran for 196 yards on 30 carries (6.5 yards per carry) in the first half. In the second half, Kent State’s defense limited Toledo to 93 rushing yards on 22 carries (4.2 ypc).

“We just more consistency with what we’re doing,” coach Sean Lewis said. “It’s the same guys and the same calls in the first half as the second half. I have the utmost confidence in what we’re doing defensively. I know it’s right for us so we’re not going to make any personnel changes.”

Buffalo is the second-ranked rushing offense in the conference. They average nearly 230 rushing ypg and their 458 carries are the most in the conference. 

2. The offense will need to find a run game outside of Dustin Crum.

Senior running back Jo-El Shaw is no longer on the team. That much is clear. What is not clear is who will replace his production.

After a career-day at Akron, senior running back Will Matthews has one touchdown. He rushed for less than 60 yards in the previous two games (3.8 ypc). In the second half of the Toledo game he had nine carries for 32 yards. 

True freshman running back Joachim Bangda is still recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered on his first carry at Akron. He finished the game at Toledo with 25 yards on four carries.

Sophomore running back Xavier Williams’ 11 rushes for 63 yards were both career-highs. The 5-foot-9 inch 186-pound running back is used primarily as a speed back. Blocking and inside runs are his glaring weaknesses so far. So far this season he has 41 carries for 169 yards and three catches for 49 yards. He scored his first career touchdown on a 28-yard catch at Toledo. 

3. Isaiah McKoy’s availability could determine the success of the offense.

Sophomore receiver Isaiah McKoy did not travel to Toledo. When asked about his availability for Thursday’s game, Lewis kept his response vague.

“If he handles his business the right way this week (he’ll play),” Lewis said.

Mckoy has 527 yards on 39 catches and four touchdowns, which are all team-highs. He’s averaging 13 yards per catch, which is a team-high for receivers who have 10 or more catches this season. 

Buffalo is averaging 208 passing ypg. They are one of four teams in the conference to have eight or more interceptions.

4. The defense will need to pressure first year quarterback Kyle Vantrease.

Buffalo’s offensive line has allowed a conference-low eight sacks this season.

Vantrease has thrown for five touchdowns and one interception, while completing 61 percent of his passes. The Bulls are 2-3 in games that they allow a sack.

5. Dustin Crum needs to continue to produce at a high level.

Crum completed 14 of 18 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns in the loss at Toledo.

In the last three games, Crum has thrown for over 200 yards in each game. He also added seven passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. 

He threw the ball five times in the second half of the loss at Toledo.

He will need more opportunities for Kent State to snap its three game losing streak.

Kickoff is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Dix Stadium.

“They’re a very good team that won the (MAC) East last year,” Lewis said. “They’re finding their stride, and they’re playing for some big things like we are. It kind of turns into playoff football at this point.”

Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected]