Things don't get any easier for the Kent State Golden Flashes, who look
to rebound after a tough loss at Toledo last weekend.
The Golden Flashes (2-4 overall, 1-2 in the Mid-American Conference) travel
to Bowling Green on Saturday to face a Falcons team that came up just short
in its upset bid at Temple. The Falcons failed to convert a two-point conversion
with no time on the clock and Temple won the game, 28-27.
Despite their 1-6 overall record and 0-3 mark in conference play, the Falcons
aren't short on talent. In fact, if it wasn't for tough luck the
Falcons could be 4-3 instead of 1-6. They've lost three games in the
closing seconds of the game.
"Watching them, that doesn't look like a 1-6 football team," said
Kent State head coach Doug Martin." They look much more athletic
and much faster than what they did last year on both sides of the ball."
The Falcons are especially opportunistic on defense, where they rank tied
for third in the nation with 12 interceptions and lead the country with four
of those interceptions returned for touchdowns.
"They're getting their hands on a lot of footballs; causing a
lot of turnovers," Martin said. "We'll have to play much
better than we did last Saturday if we're going to have a chance."
Bowling Green isn't as effective in stopping the run. The Falcons, who
allow 234.6 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry, rank dead last in the MAC
in rush defense.
If Kent State finds success running the football, it could help keep the Flashes' defense
off the field against a pretty potent Bowling Green offense.
"We've begun to run the football better," Martin said. "We
ran the ball better at Akron, we ran the ball better the other night at Toledo.
We did some nice things to mix up, change our running game a little bit and
help our backs be more productive."
In last year's 36-35 last second win at Kent State, Bowling Green ran
93 plays to just 52 for the Golden Flashes and passed for 505 yards.
Quarterback Tyler Sheehan and wide receiver Freddie
Barnes no longer are on
the Falcons' roster, but Bowling Green still has plenty of ammunition
and the offense hasn't changed much. The Falcons rank fourth in the MAC
in passing offense with 251 yards per game but have struggled to run the football.
Bowling Green averages just 66 yards per game, worst in the MAC.
"The key is we can't roll out there and all of a sudden (allow
them) to run the football," Martin said. "Because if they run the
football on us it will be a long, long day. We've got to keep them one-dimensional
and then manage the passing game."
Martin knows the Flashes won't shut down Bowling Green's offense.
But, as long as the Flashes bend, but don't break, they'll be in
a position to win the football game.
"They're going to move the ball," he said. "When you
throw it that much you're going to move it. We've got to be really
dynamic down in the red zone, we've got to get stops on third down, we've
got to pick and choose our time to come after the quarterback. You just can't
give them the same diet of everything play after play. They'll eat you
Bowling Green's passing attack isn't designed to hit a home run
on every pass attempt. The Falcons average just 6.4 yards per attempt. Bowling
Green's offense is very similar to Kent State's. The Falcons like
to throw short, high percentage passes to their wide receivers and running
backs then allow their playmakers to create the explosion plays.
That strategy should help to keep Kent State's defense away from the
quarterback. The Flashes lead the MAC with 17 sacks.
"They get the ball out quick," Martin said. "They really
don't stretch the field very much. It's all a controlled passing
game. There's a lot of screens involved. The draw, the screen, the quick
hitches, the slants; they're just really good at getting the ball out.
That's why it's maybe not so important how many sacks you get as
much as it is pushing the pocket and being able to drop a lot of people into
coverage on teams like that."
Bowling Green has struggled a bit in special teams.
Kicker/punter Bryan Wright has excelled on kickoffs and punts, as
he leads the MAC with a 42.03 yards per punt average. But, he has connected
on just 4-of-9 field goal attempts and was 16-of-18 on point after tries.
That led BG head coach Dave Clawson to open the kicking job to sophomore
Stephen Stein and freshman Kyle Burkhardt. Wright will focus
on punting and kickoffs.
The Falcons also will be looking for a new punt returner as junior Eugene Cooper is not expected to play. Cooper is the only Falcons player to return
a punt this season. He has 11 returns for 123 yards and one score, good for
third in the MAC. He is also one of the Falcons top kick returners.
Senior Tyrone Pronty is the guy the Flashes will want to kick away
from. He leads Bowling Green with 24 kick returns for 510 yards, a 21.2-yards
per return average. Freshman Jerry Gates is second on the team with
nine returns for 182 yards, a 20.2-yards per return average.
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