Holding a team to nine points and only allowing 166 total yards of offense should spell victory almost any weekend. For the Flashes, it was one score too many.
In front of a homecoming crowd bundled in winter gear for the winds up to 33 mph in 56-degree weather, the Flashes dropped their sixth game of the season in a 9 to 3 loss to Miami (Ohio).
Kent State managed to score early in the first quarter with a 32-yard field goal from junior kicker Freddy Cortez, but the Flashes were never able to reach the end zone-the deciding factor of the game.
Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell looked at his offensive line for the scoring troubles. The line opened few holes for the running backs to run through, as freshman Trayion Durham, the lead rusher, was held to only 51 yards on 19 carries for a 2.7 yards per carry average.
The offensive line's main troubles were on third down, where the Flashes converted for first downs three of 17 attempts. Junior quarterback Spencer Keith was sacked four times on third down, and Durham was stopped for a no gain twice on third and one situations.
"The problems we thought we had to fix on the offensive line obviously weren't fixed because we came up short on a couple third-and-shorts," Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell said. "Those are great situations to be in. 3rd-and-one, 3rd-and-two, even a 3rd-and-three, because we should convert those 75, 80 percent. We're just not doing that right now. Without looking at the film I can't tell you why, but obviously were doing something wrong, and we've got to get it fixed."
Even being sacked five times and under pressure on nearly every pass, Keith played well. The 6-foot 3-inch quarterback threw for 169 yards on 16 catches out of 31 attempts. His one interception came on a desperate Hail Mary pass to the end zone to close the first half.
"From the sideline, from my perspective, I thought (Keith) played more comfortable," Hazell said. "I thought he made some clean throws; he missed a couple, but by-and-large he took care of the football. It was good to see him make those improvements."
With his 169 yards, Keith became the fourth quarterback in Kent State history to throw for over 5,000 career-passing yards. Keith passed former Kent State quarterback and current New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman in the process.
Hazell said Keith performance Saturday does not mean he has the position locked up. Freshman Cedric McCloud could get the start after the bye weekend next weekend if he outperforms Keith in the upcoming practices.
The Flashes' wide receivers also improved since last weekend's loss to Northern Illinois, where the Flashes did not have their first pass reception until late in the third quarter.
Senior wide receiver Chris Gilbert started over junior wide receiver Matt Hurdle and led the team with 6 receptions for 56 yards, a career high for Gilbert. Gilbert was part of Kent State's biggest play of the season in terms of yardage when he hauled went up over two defenders and hauled in a 25-yard pass early in the third quarter.
Hazell said after the game Gilbert got the start because he is working hard and doing everything he needs to in practice in order to succeed.
Hazell said in the postgame press conference the coaches' main concern over the bye weekend will be fixing the offensive line.
"We're going to move some guys around and find out who our best five (offensive linemen) are," Hazell said. "See if there is a better marriage between two, three guys. Because we're stalling. We're flat-out stalling right now."
As for the defense being frustrated in the offense for not responding to their excellent display, sophomore defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix said no breakup or separation between offense and defense will occur like it has in years past.
"Last year was last year; that's in the past," Nix said. "Our new coaching staff fights for us to be a family this year. It's always a little frustrating, but I believe this is a whole new team with whole different beliefs. It's impossible to win every time and we are going to fight through it."
The Flashes have next weekend off to re-organize the offensive line before hosting the 3-4 Bowling Green Falcons. The Falcons are coming off a close 28 to 21 loss to the 4-3 Toledo Rockets.