The Kent State football team spent the 11 days after a 45-30 loss at Bowling Green contemplating just where they are headed. It was a long week and a half of soul-searching and readjusting of team goals, but it paid off Wednesday night in a mid-week game against Temple.
The Golden Flashes racked up a season-high 561 yards of offense in a 41-38 victory over the Owls. The win at Dix Stadium was the first for the Flashes over a Football Bowl Subdivision team since defeating Eastern Michigan, 14-6, on Nov. 17, 2006. The offensive production was the most since Nov. 23, 2004 at Central Michigan.
"I couldn't be more proud of our football team. That was exactly what we needed. It was a great team win," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin. "Our defense struggled at times but at the end of the game they made plays and they got stops and secured the win for us. Offensively we went up against one of the top two defenses in the Mid-American Conference and handled them. That's what, offensively, we should be able to do."
Kent State entered the 2008 season hoping to compete for the Mid-American Conference East Division title, but after giving away games to Akron and Ohio, the Golden Flashes are now hoping to finish second in the East for the second time in three seasons.
Martin hopes his team will continue to play with the heart and fire he saw on Wednesday.
"That was an example of how you need to play if you're going to win championships; if you're going to win football games, and we finally did it and our guys got to experience doing it and it was a huge step for this program," he said. "There couldn't be a better way for us to win a game. We needed to learn to win close games. We needed to learn how to handle adversity and our kids kept coming back and they played their hearts out."
Is a win still a win if nobody is there to see it?
You know the old saying, "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a noise?" The same could be asked about the Flashes thrilling victory Wednesday night at Dix Stadium.
With just 6,866 fans on hand, Dix Stadium looked more like it was hosting a high school junior varsity game than a game between two Division I college programs. But those fans were treated to a fireworks display for four quarters—and at halftime.
Martin hopes to see more fans in the stands on Tuesday when the Golden Flashes wrap up their home season with yet another mid-week game, this time against Northern Illinois.
"I really hope that people around here will take (the win) as a sign they need to get here next week and watch particularly (Edelman) play his last game in Dix Stadium because I'm going to promise you he and the seniors are worth the price of admission, especially this guy right here," said Martin motioning to his senior quarterback. "This will be his last home game here and we'd really love to have those people here because we're going to play another great team then and we can get us another win in that one and we look forward to it. I'm really just proud of these guys."
Anyone that questioned the heart of the Kent State football team following a 45-30 loss to Bowling Green on Nov. 1 needs to review the play of senior offensive lineman Augustus Parrish and senior linebacker Cedrick Maxwell during the Golden Flashes 41-38 victory over Temple Wednesday night at Dix Stadium.
Parrish, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound tackle, suffered a calf injury on the Flashes first series of the game, yet he stayed in the game and helped the offense rush for a season-high 329 yards.
"He really played with a lot of heart," Martin said. "He hurt his leg early in the game, had a calf strain or something that really did hamper him. One of the last sacks he gave up was because of that, but he played his heart out."
After the game, Parrish said he couldn't put weight on his injured right leg, but that didn't stop him from protecting his quarterback or paving the way for quarterback Julian Edelman and running back Eugene Jarvis, who rushed for a season-high 185 yards.
Maxwell, who missed two games after breaking a bone in his leg at Ball State, picked up a game ball after his performance under the lights against Temple. Maxwell posted just three tackles, but he was involved in shutting down Temple's rushing attack and inspired his teammates.
"You talk about playing with some heart, he's playing with a broken leg. His leg's not healed," Martin said. "He limped around out there tonight, but he made plays and he gave everything he's got for the school, so he was outstanding."
Not this time
Back on Oct. 4, Kent State jumped out to a 21-10 first half lead over Akron. The Zips rallied in the second half and pulled out a 30-27 overtime victory in that game.
Wednesday night the Flashes again got off to a fast start as Edelman scored two touchdowns and Jarvis added another to give KSU a 21-3 second quarter lead. But, a turnover and a defensive breakdown on third-and-30 allowed the Owls to cut the lead to 21-17 at the break.
This time, Kent State responded to the adversity.
The Owls returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and a 24-21 lead, but the teams traded scores until Nate Reed hit the second of two field goals and the Flashes defense stood tall to preserve the victory.
"I think it's just the resolve of our players," Martin said. "We're developing a mentality that we're just going to attack people. We're not going to worry about the last play or the next play or anything else; it's just staying in the present."
Instead of hanging their heads at what looked like another Kent State breakdown, the Golden Flashes responded scoring on four of their eight second half possessions (they took a knee on their final drive).
"I thought our guys did a great job of just attacking," Martin said. "They're growing up maybe a little bit and understanding how to win, I hope. We'll see. We've got some more games here that we need to win to make that happen. That was a great experience for our guys to have."
No time to waste
Facing one of the MAC's top defenses, Kent State knew it would have its hands full with the Owls' tough front four. So, Martin and his staff opted to use a no-huddle offense to prevent the Owls from rotating its players.
With over 500 yards of offense for the first time in four years, the results speak for themselves.
"Their defensive front is their strength. That's the best defensive front we've played since Boston College. They are really good and they're strong and physical and big," Martin said. "We thought if we stayed in the no-huddle we might work on their conditioning a little bit and tire them out. We really believe we're a well-conditioned team. I don't know if it had an effect or not but we thought it did."
No better option than the option
A big part of Kent State's offense was the option.
"That was the Joker in the deck of cards, as coach always said," Edelman said. "They are a huge Cover 2 team. On third and short we knew they were going to go to man blitz, we had great angles if they didn't. Coach put us in a great play. I'd check it at the line of scrimmage and we just executed it. Offensive line guys would get their guys on the ground, receivers would block; that's all you can say. We just executed our play."
One reporter made the mistake of asking Edelman if that's the first time the Flashes pulled the option out of the playbook.
"Every game. This your first game here?" Edelman joked.
Martin responded, "you don't have to take that from him."
Post-game media conferences always are much more fun when the Flashes win.
After injuring his ankle earlier this season, Eugene Jarvis missed three games. He returned in time for the Flashes 54-21 win at Miami on Oct. 25, but at less than 100-percent.
He's still not back to normal, but he's always dangerous as he proved with his 34-carry, 185-yard performance.
"I'm getting there. I'm not 100-percent yet, but like I said, there's three games left you have to leave it out on the field," Jarvis said. "Each game I'm just getting better and better. The more practices I go through and then when the game time comes, it's game time, all the pain go out the window. You can't feel it when it's game time."
A little pick me up
During his time on the sidelines, Jarvis acted as his team's No. 1 cheerleader. His teammates repaid him Wednesday night.
Leading 7-0, Kent State drove inside the Temple 20 on its second possession of the game. But, Jarvis fumbled and the Owls recovered at their 21.
The Owls moved the ball to the Kent State 36, but defensive end Kevin Hogan sacked quarterback Adam DiMichele for an 11-yard loss back at the 47 where the Owls punted the ball back to the Golden Flashes.
Nine plays later Jarvis scored on a 5-yard run to push the lead to 14-0. He accounted for 32 of the Flashes' 81 yards on the drive.
"(The defense getting a stop after the fumble) was big," Jarvis said. "The fumble that happened, I had seen a hole but I didn't tuck the ball fully. It was just a good play by the defensive lineman. Coach (has) faith in me, if I mess up I know I'm going to make another play and try to help my offense. Luckily I did that."
Did somebody say Jumbo?
Typically, when a head coach calls for a jumbo package it involves a double-tight end set with a fullback in the backfield leading the way for the halfback. Creative coaches will use an offensive lineman at fullback to add a bit of size in the backfield.
Facing a stout defensive line, Kent State opted to use seven offensive linemen in its jumbo package.
"We used Pat Reedy as a wing to get us just a little bit extra size up there," Martin said. "We're a little short on tight ends right now, Lester Troutman was hurt, so we used Reedy and then put Prishod Koonce in there on the offensive line trying to get a little better push."
The move paid off as the Flashes scored three times from two yards or less.
"They're really good up front and they made some adjustments later in the game, brought in some defensive linemen that helped, but our guys played pretty well there," Martin said.
Aside from the special teams, no unit has been criticized more than the Golden Flashes wide receivers.
Wednesday night in adverse conditions, the unit made big play after big play.
"They stepped up," said quarterback Julian Edelman. "It didn't rain that hard but those balls were wet. The surface gets the ball wet and they handled the adversity very well and they caught the ball and made plays."
Kent State's wide receivers caught 14 of Edelman's 18 pass completions for 196 yards.
Them's fighting words
After beating Miami 54-21 on Oct. 24, Martin was disgusted with his team. He knew all along his team could win games if only it would stay focused for 48 minutes. It was then that he decided to challenge his team, not only on the field, but in the media, the classroom, weight room and anywhere else he could force them to step up their game.
There were no harsh words after Wednesday's win over Temple.
"We're just putting all that behind us," Martin said. "The war started today. The war for Kent state football started today, in our minds. We're going to change the mentality from ourselves, from within. That's what we challenged our football team to do today, this week, this game, and they did that. I don't care what's happened in the past, I don't care what's happened in the past this season, it matters what happens today and in these next two games and we'll go from there."
Finally, this space is reserved for an atta' boy from quarterback Julian Edelman.
"Zach (Tilves), the ball boy, did a good job today," Edelman said. "I told him I'd get that in there."