Kent State head football coach Darrell Hazell walked across Huskie Stadium to the press conference confused and puzzled. Losing 40-10 to Northern Illinois with no pass completions until the third quarter was not part of Darrell Hazell's game plan.
"We shot ourselves in the foot early in the football game today that resulted in 14 points," Hazell said. "It seemed to me that we had break downs in all (offensive) positions: quarterback, running back, tight ends…"
It took one mistake for junior quarterback Spencer Keith to be yanked. On a screen pass, Keith was flushed out of the pocket. Under pressure, he threw to his target, freshman running back Anthony Meray, but did not see the Huskie lineman standing there.
Northern Illinois defensive lineman Nabal Jefferson intercepted the pass Hazell called errant and returned it 25 yards for the Huskie's first touchdown.
"Turnovers early in games are critical," Hazell said. "We talked as a coaching staff that if Spence struggled early we would go with the second guy."
For the rest of the game, freshman Cedric McCloud was the signal caller. Hazell said he did not think McCloud did bad in his first career start and was more concerned with the offensive line, who made McCloud's job nearly impossible. The offensive line allowed McCloud to be sacked seven times.
"Their (defensive) ends put pressure on our quarterback all day," Hazell said. "We tried running the ball, and we were just getting hit in the backfield. We tried getting it fixed on the sideline, but no matter what we ran-power, stretch-we could not get any push with our linemen. When you cannot run the football, they pin their ears back and come after you in the passing game."
This shows on the stat sheet, as Kent State finished with only 70 yards of total offense to Northern Illinois' 344. McCloud was 6 for 22 for 63 yards, and freshman running back Trayion Durham and Meray combined for 65 rushing yards.
McCloud's poor stats were not only because of his struggles and the offensive line. The wide receivers continued to have their problems catching the ball. Last weekend, Flashes' wide receivers dropped eight passes. Hazell will have to count up how many occurred yesterday. Senior wide receiver Chris Gilbert and senior tight end Justin Thompson tied for the team lead in receptions with only two.
Despite what the score depicts, the defense played well for the position the offense put them in. The Flashes' defense was able to hold Northern Illinois' powerful offense, averaging 37.2 points per game going into the game, to just 23 yards after the first quarter.
"I thought our defense was kept in poor situations all day," Hazell said.
As stated above, Hazell has a list of positions he needs to figure out. Yet, the first year coach is still confident they will figure it out.
"Somehow we will get all of those problems fixed once I look at the film tomorrow," Hazell said. "We are not good enough to overcome our mistakes in those positions yet."
The 1-5 Flashes look to get personnel organized and achieve their second win of the season against the 1-5 Miami Redhawks in Kent State's homecoming game. Kickoff begins at 3:30 p.m. at Dix Stadium this Saturday.