At 11-1 heading into this Friday evening's MAC championship game, Kent State is poised to add another notch to the season's historical belt if they can pull off a win against No. 21 Northern Illinois at Ford Field.
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Win or lose on Friday night, it's been a special year for Kent State's players, coaches and fans, and today a number of those players - and head coach Darrell Hazell - were honored by the Mid-American Conference for their successes.
In his second year at the helm for the Golden Flashes, Hazell was named MAC Coach of the Year today, an honor well deserved for the man in charge of one of the country's hottest football programs. Kent State has won 10 games in a row for the first time ever, and in his two seasons as head coach, Hazell has won 16 games for the navy blue and gold. Winners of 15 of their last 17 games total, Hazell has revamped and rejuvenated a football program that won only 16 games between 1989 and 2000 and was mired in a span of three straight 5-7 seasons before this year's epic turnaround.
When you're the head coach of a mid-major school like Kent State and you see such success, there is a natural career progression that happens, and for Kent State fans, today marked another "big" moment, as Hazell made his first comments about what his future - at least for next season - holds.
"I'm going to be here at Kent (next year)," Hazell told the radio show Andy & Artrell. "It's been a great situation here and they've taken care of me, so I'll take it day by day."
Hazell becomes the first Kent State coach to win the MAC Coach of the Year award since Glen Mason, who won the award in 1986.
Archer leads group of honorees
Junior Dri Archer took home some hardware of his own today as the MAC announced that he the Special Teams Player of the Year, and also a first-team All-MAC selection at tailback. The speedy 5-foot-8 Archer, from Laurel (Fla.), electrified fans all year with his big-play capabilities, racking up an incredible 38.2 yards per kick return average, including three touchdowns in the first five games of the year before teams began avoiding him.
Out of the backfield, Archer was just as dangerous, finishing the regular season with 1337 rushing yards and 14 scores. Remarkably those numbers were accomplished on only 138 carries for an astounding 9.7 yards per carry average. He also scored a new Kent State record 21 total touchdowns by adding four scores out of his 30 receptions this season. For good measure, he also threw a touchdown pass to quarterback Spencer Keith in Kent State's 31-17 win against Army.
Joining Archer on the first-team All-MAC squad are senior guard Brian Winters and junior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, each of whom earned first-team honors for the third straight season.
Nix, the 2010 MAC Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman struggled with a foot injury in 2011, but bounced back to start all 12 games this year for the Golden Flashes, accumulating 14 tackles for loss - a team high - and 5.5 sacks. The heart of the nation's best defense at forcing turnovers, Nix also forced three fumbles this season.
Dri Archer - Junior - Running Back
Brian Winters - Senior - Offensive Guard
Roosevelt Nix - Junior - Defensive Tackle
Josh Kline - Senior - Offensive Guard
Luke Batton - Senior - Middle Linebacker
Luke Wollet - Junior - Safety
Trayion Durham - Sophomore - Running Back
C.J. Malauulu - Senior - Linebacker
Jake Dooley - Junior - Defensive End
The nine all-conference winners for Kent State are the most the team has had in a single season since 1987.
You can catch Kent State in action in this MAC title game this Friday, November 30th at 7pm on ESPN2.