November 2, 2009

What's different now?

When Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan plowed into the end zone with just five seconds left in the Falcons come-from-behind 36-35 win at Kent State on Oct. 10, the Golden Flashes looked like a deflated bunch.

They dropped to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference. They had allowed 1,100 yards of offense to their first two conference opponents and already were playing without fifth-year senior running back Eugene Jarvis and starting quarterback Giorgio Morgan was hobbled by an ankle injury and ultimately replaced by true freshman Spencer Keith.

In the past, key injuries alone would have been enough to demoralize a Kent State football team. Add in the heart wrenching loss to Bowling Green and there was little chance for the Golden Flashes to make good on their head coach's promise that this team would have a winning record and go to a bowl game.

The week after the Bowling Green loss the Golden Flashes traveled to Eastern Michigan and played one of their best games in sixth-year head coach Doug Martin' tenure. They defeated the Eagles, 28-6, then traveled to Ohio the next week and dominated the Bobcats, 20-11.

For good measure, the Flashes followed up those victories with a 26-14 home victory over Western Michigan last Saturday.

So, what's different about this group? Why hasn't this team collapsed like so many of their predecessors had done?

"It's a different team every year," said sophomore running back Jacquise Terry, who has rushed for 75 yards or more in each of the six games he has played in since Jarvis' injury. "You may have the same players, but this is a different team, this is a Kent State team that has a lot of focus."

It's not just focus. It's effort and a belief in each other.

"We're working hard, we practice hard and we go out and play hard," Terry said. "We go into the weight room and lift hard and take it from the weight room to the practice field and practice field to Saturday. This is a different team. I love the guys that played with us last year, this is only my second year but the guys that played with us last year, I just feel that this Kent State team is very focused."

Junior defensive end Monte Simmons has been around a little longer than Terry, but he agrees with his sophomore teammate.

"It's like coach Martin says, we don't know what we are great at individually, but together as a team we're unstoppable," Simmons said. "And that's what we're taking under consideration. We have that focus in our mind; we have tunnel vision. Every week it's a one game MAC championship. We're focused on it and that's what we're going for, no matter what. Because the only thing that matters is us throughout these games and that's what we're focusing on."

Will that focus be enough for the Golden Flashes to control their own destiny by winning their three remaining games, including a rivalry game at Akron this week and a road contest at East Division leader Temple in two weeks?

Only time will tell.

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