September 26, 2008

If the season starts now, Flashes in trouble

When Kent State head coach Doug Martin met with the media Monday afternoon, he talked about his team’s 1-3 record in non-conference play. He also stated that the real season begins Saturday at Ball State. That’s when the Golden Flashes open Mid-American Conference play, and winning the conference always has been top priority.

"We're treating this like our season begins this week," Martin said. "Conference games are obviously the most important for us, and this is what we've been pointing to all year long."

Martin referenced the 2006 season to prove that non-conference results aren’t always indicative of how a season may turn out.

"In 2006, we were 1-3 (actually 0-2) and we went on a five-game winning streak and were one game away from the MAC championship," he said. "That is where we are again. You look at most teams on the East side of the MAC, and I think the best record is 2-2. Non-conference doesn't matter as much.”

That’s true; non-conference games don’t mean much. Just look at Central Michigan last season. The Chippewas lost three of their first four games and added a mid-season loss to Clemson, but still ended the season with an 8-6 mark. Even more important, CMU was 7-1 in conference play and a 35-10 win over Miami in the MAC Championship game earned them a spot in the Motor City Bowl.

Back in 2006, the Golden Flashes were destroyed by Minnesota, 44-0, in the season opener. They then traveled to Army and lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 17-14. It looked like another disastrous season was in order, but the Golden Flashes regrouped and won five straight games, including wins over the last three seasons’ MAC champs�"Akron, Toledo and Miami.

But, 2008 might be different and Martin might want to consider moving back a week the start date of this new season.

Unlike in 2006 when the Flashes opened conference play against Miami, a team that finished the year 2-10, Kent State travels to Ball State to face the 4-0 Cardinals, who received six votes in the latest AP Poll and 16 in the USA Today Poll.

As if facing the nation’s No. 12 offense�"after giving up nearly 700 yards to Louisiana-Lafayette�"wasn’t imposing enough, the Golden Flashes have to contend with an emotionally charged team that likely will go out to win a game for injured wide receiver Dante Love. Love was injured during last week’s 42-20 win over Indiana and after having a five-hour surgery Sunday, his career likely has come to an end.

Ball State leads the MAC in 7 of 15 major statistical categories: Passing Offense, Scoring Offense, Total Offense, Pass Efficiency, Pass Efficiency Defense, Scoring Defense and Sacks Allowed.

Fortunately for Kent State, games aren’t played on paper�"if they were, the Golden Flashes surely would be in trouble.

Still, the Cardinals are led by Nate Davis, one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks. Davis is fifth in the nation in pass efficiency (182.3), 12th in total offense (307.5), 21st in points responsible for (15.0 per game) and 8th in passing yards (1,155). He’s also a capable rusher with 264 yards and five scores to his credit.

That doesn’t bode well for a defense that couldn’t contain Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux last week.

Following the Ball State game, Kent State returns home where they’ll host Akron in the start of MAC East Division games. Martin might want to consider that game as the start of the Golden Flashes new season.

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