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September 25, 2009

Preview: KSU hosts Miami

Kent State (1-2, 0-0 MAC) vs. Miami (0-3, 0-1 MAC)
Saturday, September 26, 2009 - 7:00 p.m. EST
Dix Stadium (25,000/FieldTurf) - Kent, Ohio
Radio: WNIR 100.1 FM (Tom Linder, Rob Polinsky & Ty Linder)
Television: None - Internet: K-Zone

Miami holds a commanding lead in the all-time series between the two schools as the RedHawks hold a 44-12 overall advantage and are 21-6 in Kent. But, recent history indicates that tide is turning as the Golden Flashes are 5-3 against the RedHawks in the last eight meetings.

Last season, KSU defeated Miami, 54-21, in Oxford.

A win will give Kent State its first back-to-back wins over the RedHawks since winning three in a row from 1986-88.


  • Redshirt freshman Zac Dysert was named Miami's starting quarterback after Tuesday's practice. Dysert has completed 5-of-11 passes this season for 75 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
  • Miami snapped its 10 quarter scoreless streak but still fell to 0-3 with a 48-26 loss at Western Michigan in the MAC opener for both schools last Saturday. The RedHawks do not play a game in Yager Stadium until Oct 3 in a season-opening stretch that will see them play six of their first seven away from home.
  • Miami has been hampered by 11 turnovers in the first three contests, while creating just three for a turnover margin that ranks 118th out of 120 schools in the country.
  • Head coach Michael Haywood (Notre Dame '86) was introduced as the 38th head coach in Miami history on Dec. 23, 2008. A Notre Dame alum, he came to Oxford following a four-year stint as the offensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish. No stranger to the Mid-American Conference, Haywood's resume includes stops at Ohio (1991-92) and Ball State (1993-94), before moving on to LSU for eight seasons and Texas for two more prior to his tenure in South Bend.

  • True freshman quarterback Spencer Keith was solid in his first collegiate start, completing 21-of-32 attempts (65.6 pct.) for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
  • After battling through a sprained ankle that hampered him for most of the first two games, sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan sat out against Iowa State. He is 30-for-51 on the year (58.8 pct.) for 239 yards and three interceptions. The coaches will evaluate his status this week in regards to his availability for Saturday.
  • Freshman wide receiver Tyshon Goode is off to an impressive start, leading the Flashes with 13 catches for 143 yards.
  • With a pick against Iowa State, junior free safety Brian Lainhart now has nine interceptions in the last 10 games dating back to Oct. 4, 2008. His 11 career interceptions are tied for seventh in KSU annals.
  • Junior middle linebacker Cobrani Mixon continues to shine, leading the team with 31 tackles (18 solo) and 4.0 TFL. Impressively, he is also tied for the team lead with three pass break-ups.

Kent State's best players are on the defensive side of the ball. That's where you'll find junior safety Brian Lainhart, who now has an interception in nine of his last 10 games. Lainhart leads the team with all three of KSU's picks this year. He's also second in tackles with 22. Sophomore corner Josh Pleasant is third with 18 stops. The Golden Flashes have allowed their opponents to complete just 43-of-83 (52-percent) of their passes for 500 yards. They allow 166.7 yards per game. They have, however, been susceptible to the big play, allowing four touchdowns through the air. Safety Dan Hartman has posted 13 tackles and has one pass break-up.

Redshirt freshman Zac Dysert gets the nod as Miami's starting quarterback after the RedHawks went scoreless in their first 10 quarters of the 2009 season. Dysert has limited experience, but he's a dual-threat. Ranks second all-time in Ohio high school football with 11,174 passing yards. He threw 100 touchdown passes for his career. Even without injured Chris Givens at wide receiver, the RedHawks are dangerous. Armand Robinson and Eugene Harris combined last week to catch 15 passes for 229 yards against Western Michigan. Robinson leads the team with 14 catches for 149 yards. Jamal Rogers has 13 catches for 104 yards and a team-high two touchdowns.
Michigan transfer Cobrani Mixon continues to shine in the middle of the Golden Flashes defense. Mixon leads the team in tackles with 31, including four for a loss. Freshman Luke Batton, who had eight tackles against Iowa State, will start in place of Dorian Wood. The other starter, Anthony Mirando, has four tackles. Junior Thomas Merriweather leads a struggling Miami rushing attack with 32 carries for 46 yards. Expect to see Andre Bratton and Roman Lawson to get their shot carrying the ball as they average 5.3 and 4.9 yards per carry, respectively. QB Dysert also has the ability to run, giving this unit another weapon.
Junior defensive end Monte Simmons leads the unit with 13 tackles and has a team-high 2 1/2 sacks. DE Kevin Hogan has posted 11 stops and is near the top of Kent State's all-time sacks list. Sam Frist missed the first game with an injury and made his first start against Iowa State. He already has five tackles. DT Aaron Hull has nine tackles. Defensive tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, a 6-foot-3, 301-pounder, has recorded four tackles on the season. Miami has rushed for just 159 yards in three games. The offensive line is young, with just two juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen (one a redshirt), but it's a big unit that averages over 6-foot-4 and 292 pounds. Left tackle Brandon Brooks, who started all 12 games last season, leads this unit--in size and maturity. How this unit responds to the change from a dropback passer to a dual-threat likely will determine how successful the Miami offense can be.
True freshman Spencer Keith started KSU's last game. Redshirt sophomore Giorgio Morgan could return to action, but will he get the start? KSU quarterbacks have completed 61-percent of their passes for 575 yards and three touchdowns, all by Keith, to five interceptions. Freshman Tyshon Goode leads the Flashes with 13 catches for 143 yards. KSU's next two best wide receviers--Phil Garner and Kendrick Pressley--have a combined 12 catches for 57 yards. Derek McBryde is the only wide receiver with a touchdown catch. Miami has allowed 258 yards passing per game, most of which came during a horrible 10-quarter scoreless streak that saw the RedHawks get outscored 125-0. Junior strong safety Jordan Gafford leads the team with 33 tackles and two passes defended. Junior cornerback Brandon Stephens has two interceptions, the only picks for the RedHawks' defense. The RedHawks have allowed their opponents to complete 59-of-96 passes (62-percent) for 775 yards. They allow an average of 258 yards per contest and have given up a whopping 10 touchdown passes.
GROUND ATTACK Edge: Opponent
Junior Andre Flowers and freshman Dri Archer have rushed for a combined 133 yards in two games since replacing fifth-year senior Eugene Jarvis, who is out for the season. The Flashes haven't generated much offensive consistency, largely in part to the absence of a dominant rushing game. The biggest weapon here might be Archer catching passes out of the backfield. Look for former running back Jacquise Terry to return to the position after a brief stint at wide receiver. Miami's linebackers, like the RedHawks' offensive linemen, are short on experience. Freshmen Anthony Shoemaker and sophomore Jerrell Wedge are expected to start at Kent State. Wedge is second on the team in tackles with 30, 15 of those came against Kentucky, and leads the team with three tackles for loss. The RedHawks use multiple fronts, which means this unit could drop to two linebackers or grow to four, depending on what they throw at the Golden Flashes.
Like Miami's youthful front five, the Golden Flashes don't have much experience up front. Before the injury to sophomore Michael Fay, the Golden Flashes were slated to start one true freshman, one redshirt freshmen, two sophomores and a junior. Fifth-year senior Dante Campbell replaces Fay at left guard. This unit must build on two solid performances. Aside from senior DT Martin Channels, who now weighs in at 307, the RedHawks aren't big up front. Instead, they rely on speed to pressure the quarterback. Ends Matt Kajmowicz and D.J. Svabik lead the team with one sack each. Channels leads the unit with eight tackles and DT Austin Brown is right behind him with seven.
SPECIAL TEAMS Edge: Opponent
After an encouraging fall, and a sparkling season opener, the KSU special teams has taken a step backwards. A big step backwards. Since Eugene Jarvis had two big punt returns to set up scores in week one, the Golden Flashes have fumbled away two punts and totaled seven yards on four punt returns. Kicker Freddy Cortez also missed his only field goal attempt since having his first collegiate kick blocked against Coastal Carolina. If there's a bright spot on special teams, it's punter Matt Rinehart, who has averaged 38.4 yards per punt with four kicks over 50 yards.

Miami's specialists graduated last year, leaving walk-on Chris DiCesare to handle the punting and Trevor Cook to place kick. DiCesare has averaged 39 yards per boot, good for fifth in the MAC, and has three punts of over 50 yards. Cook is 0-of-1 on field goals and 2-of-3 on extra points. Thus far, Dustin Woods has handled the punt returns, he has a 9.2-yard average, but Eugene Harris also is available. Woods also leads the team with 109 kickoff return yards (15.6 average). Miami's kickoff team also has struggled as the RedHawks have allowed 35.3 yards per return.

SUMMARY: While Kent State gets the nod in most of the above categories, that doesn't mean the Golden Flashes are going to walk all over Miami. The advantage in most categories is slim, at best. This game features two teams on the ropes. The RedHawks enter 0-3 in the first year of the Mike Haywood-era. A loss to Kent State drops the RedHawks to 0-2 in the MAC, and with non-conference games against nationally ranked Cincinnati and at Northwestern coming up could mean an 0-6 start. For Kent State, the Golden Flashes need a win, not only to start off conference play on the right foot, but because the team has yet to rebound emotionally from losing Jarvis to a season-ending injury.


  1. Score early. Ten quarters is a long time to go without scoring. An early score could settle down freshman quarterback Zac Dysert and allow him to do what he does best: read defenses and make big plays with his arm and legs.
  2. Pressure Kent State's quarterbacks. Giorgio Morgan could return from an ankle injury and Spencer Keith has yet to see much pressure. Make them both work for everything they get.
  3. Win the turnover battle. Miami is -8 and KSU is -3 in the turnover battle. Face it, there are going to be some turnovers in this game, and Miami needs to come out on top of that deal.


  1. Score early to gain confidence, and the crowd's support, and to force Miami quarterback Zac Dysert to become one-dimensional. Taking away his ability to scramble is important.
  2. Make positive plays on special teams. Don't give up offensive possessions by fumbling away punts and kickoffs.
  3. Find a quarterback and stick with him. Both Giorgio Morgan and Spencer Keith are healthy and should see playing time. Allow one to find his groove and stick with him.

Share your thoughts on this game in The Flash Point, where intelligent Kent State fans talk Golden Flashes sports!

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