November 6, 2010

Another cold November day

KENT--It's been over four years since Kent State last played a meaningful football game in November and back then Mother Nature gave the Golden Flashes more adversity than they could handle.

Swirling winds, driving rain and snow and even a lightning delay led to disaster for the Flashes' punting unit, which had one kick travel negative yards, another went just seven yards and a third resulted in a 13-yard loss and change of possession to the Ohio Bobcats, who scored immediately following each special teams gaffe in a 17-7 win.

Four years later, the Flashes again played a big game in November and just like in 2006 they failed to overcome the elements in a 28-10 loss to Temple.

This time, it wasn't the punting game that hurt Kent State-the weak-minded Flashes never let it get that far.

Against Temple, the Flashes lost the mind over matter battle.

The game-time temperature dipped near freezing, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the Temple sideline.

The Owls, who could have doubled as soccer hooligans with their constant arm-in-arm chants, embraced the cold weather and apparently thrived in it. Then there was Temple head coach Al Golden, wearing just a shirt and tie and a pair of dress slacks.

"(Golden) sets the right example," said redshirt sophomore quarterback Mike Gerardi, who completed 21-of-29 passes for 368 yards, the most ever by a Temple first-year starter, and two scores. "Even last year at the bowl game; he was wearing what he is wearing right now. Coach Golden sets a great example for us on and off the field."

Meanwhile, across the field, the Golden Flashes gave the impression they never before have played in a cold weather game. Many of the players on the Kent State sideline opted for the ankle-length blue hooded parkas, while you could count on one hand the number of Temple players even wearing long sleeves.

Ironically, it was Temple that trucked in the heated benches you normally see on an NFL sideline.

"When we got (to Temple), we weren't very tough. We would lose games when they got tough or guys were worried whether it was cold or it would impact our practice," Golden said. "Right now, we're a pretty mature group. What we practiced in on Thursday, we don't have an indoor practice facility, this was nothing compared to what we did on Thursday. It was freezing rain and 45-degrees and we're soaked out there. I think the guys have some mental toughness."

Clearly, Temple had the better football team on Saturday, but the weak-minded Golden Flashes never gave themselves a chance.

Even up 3-0 and driving for another score, the Golden Flashes' sideline was silent. The players were cold. They were bundled in their parkas.

They were weak.

Kent State head coach Doug Martin didn't see it that way.

"They were all into the game," he said of his players.

On the field, Kent State certainly set itself up to win the game. The Golden Flashes blocked two punts, picked off a pair of passes, forced and recovered a fumble, and twice punter Matt Rinehart pinned the Owls inside their own five.

Clearly, the Flashes could compete with the division-leading Owls when they weren't warming their hands or curling their toes inside their cleats.

The Kent State sideline lacked emotion even after one of the many big plays turned in by its defense and special teams units. It's hard to raise your arms in celebration when your hands are tucked deep inside the layers of a warm parka.

Across the field, the Owls were fired up. They were hungry, and obviously warmer than their opponents.

"What we always preach is 365 for 14. You've got 365 days of work for 14 opportunities. We want to go out there and enjoy every minute of it," Golden said. "When the kids are active on the sideline and they have energy it's never meant to demean the opponent. It's never directed at any specific opponent. It's never taunting in nature. It's just celebrating that those three hours are ours and we work all year around for those three hours."

Once Freddy Cortez's second 32-yard field goal attempt of the game was ruled wide right-it wasn't-the Flashes completely withered to the cold and to the first sign of adversity on the field.

Temple drove 80 yards-even overcoming a first-and-30 in the process-to take a 7-3 lead.

The Golden Flashes fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and Temple made it 14-3 just five plays later.

A Temple turnover at the goal line prevented another Owls score just before halftime. That only delayed the inevitable-a Kent State loss.

Kent State failed to capitalize on field position in the third quarter. Even pinned deep in its own territory, Temple managed to hit on a 63-yard pass play that set up a one-yard Bernard Pierce touchdown run to push the Owls lead to 21-3.

Any hope the Flashes had of climbing back into the game pretty much dissolved in between the third and fourth quarters when all the Owls players huddled near the 50-yard line, arm-in-arm howling for the fat singing lady to warm-up.

Across the field the Golden Flashes dug their hands deeper into their parka pockets, eyeing the game clock and thinking ahead to the heated locker room they'd soon enter, putting behind them another miserable November afternoon.

Kent State's slim chances of winning the MAC East faded away with the steam they exhaled from their mouths. Temple was tough enough-mentally and physically-to keep alive its hopes of winning that conference title.

"Toughness is our foundation," Gerardi said. "We like the guys that set the right example with toughness. A lot of great players on our team, they know the brand here is toughness. "

Hopefully Kent State's sideline paid attention.

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