October 9, 2009

Homecoming wins key to success?

A quick review of history indicates that for Kent State to have a winning season the Golden Flashes must win their Homecoming game against Bowling Green on Saturday.

Since the 2000 season, the Golden Flashes are just 2-7 in Homecoming contests. But, both victories led to non-losing seasons. In 2001, KSU defeated Buffalo, 35-13, and went on to finish 6-5. In 2006, the Golden Flashes topped Toledo, 40-14, and finished the year 6-6.

The Golden Flashes are just 22-59 during the seven seasons this decade in which they lost their Homecoming game. They failed to reach the .500 mark in all seven seasons.

Adding to the pressure of Saturday's game against the Falcons is the opportunity to move to 2-0 in the conference for just the second time in the last 32 years (2006 and 1986) and building momentum for a two-game road swing, which includes a stop at Mid-American Conference East Division rival Ohio.

So, how do the Golden Flashes ensure a victory against the reeling Falcons?

First, they need to copy Ohio's blueprint from last week's 44-37 victory at BG. In that game, the Bobcats were out-gained (474-419) and held the ball nearly 10 minutes less than the Falcons (34:10-25:50), but managed to capitalize on Bowling Green mistakes in all three aspects of the game and scored five touchdowns on plays that covered 27 yards or more.

Included in that group of explosion plays were two passes from quarterback Theo Scott, two long runs, one a 68-yarder by Scott, and a 72-yard punt return.

"At the end of the day we made too many mistakes to win that game," said Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson. "It was all three aspects of the game. Certainly, on offense, the fumble, not converting a fourth-and-1; not converting a fourth-and-2; we dropped three touchdown passes. Defensively, we're just giving up too many big plays right now. We gave up nine of them against Ohio and they were all costly. And then on Special teams, certainly the punt return and the fake punt, you just can't make that many mistakes and expect to win a football game."

Kent State will attempt to rebound from a similar performance at Baylor. The Bears won the game, 31-15, thanks to several Golden Flashes' miscues on offense, defense and on special teams. But, a strong second half has the Golden Flashes feeling very confident entering the second week of MAC play.

Both teams will arrive at Dix Stadium on Saturday feeling as if they let a win get away last week. Both the Falcons and Golden Flashes will focus on minimizing self-inflicted wounds-penalties, turnovers, special teams gaffes, blown assignments-and whichever team can play the cleanest game likely emerges victorious.

Despite their 1-4 record, the Falcons possess plenty of talent, especially on offense.

Quarterback Tyler Sheehan has completed 148-of-233 passes for 1,455 yards and seven touchdowns to just three interceptions. He averages over 290 passing yards per game. His favorite target is Freddie Barnes, who has 53 receptions for 444 yards and two scores.

"I think he's really adapted well to their offense," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin about Sheehan. "He's really seeing the field well and really puts the ball around to a lot of different places."

Barnes' 53 receptions equals the number of receptions by ALL of Kent State's receivers combined, not counting the receptions by running backs and tight ends, but the Golden Flashes' wide receivers have produced more yardage, topping Barnes 494-444. Barnes also leads Bowling Green with a 26.3-yard average on punt returns.

"I think you've got to know where he is," said Martin of Barnes. "They've got several playmakers like that, but he's obviously been one for a long time. He's a key to their offense. We'll have some things designed I'm sure to double him when we can."

The Falcons struggle running the ball, and that's largely due to the health of Willie Geter, who has played with a sprained toe. Geter did manage to rush for 70 yards against the Bobcats. As a team, the Falcons average just 2.5 yards per carry.

Defensively, the Falcons allow 200 passing yards and 190 rushing yards per game. They are one of just 22 teams nationally that allow 6.00 or more yards per play.

"On the other side of the ball I think they're still trying to find themselves a little bit about who and what they are," Martin said. "They gave up quite a few explosion plays to Ohio; had some balls get over their head and the quarterback had a long run; running back had a big day for Ohio. They've got speed and they do a lot of different things that we haven't seen as far as coverages, some combination coverages and robber schemes; some things like that."

Senior defensive back Roger Williams leads the Falcons with 24 unassisted tackles and has one of the team's three interceptions and a team-high three pass breakups. He's also BG's top kick returner with 22 attempts for 452 yards with a long of 47.

Kent State has its hands full with an offense that can score points in a hurry. The Golden Flashes will have to take advantage of the Falcons' rush defense that allows 5.5 yards per carry. If Kent State can run the ball to chew up game clock and pass efficiently to move the chains, the Bowling Green offense will see limited opportunities to make big plays.

"We've got to have really good balance offensively in this game and we've got to put points on the board because we're not going to shut Bowling Green out, they're going to score," Martin said. "They've scored on everybody they've played this year and moved the ball on everybody they've played. For us to win this game, our offense has got to be productive in yardage and on the scoreboard."

1-4, 0-1 MAC
2-3, 1-0 MAC
Points Scored
112 (22.4)
83 (16.6)
Points Allowed
151 (30.2)
118 (23.6)
Average per Play
Rushing: Att-Yards
Passing: Att-Completions-Yards
Passing Touchdowns-Interceptions
Punting: No-Yards-Average
Penalties: No-Yards
Time of Possession
3rd Down Conversions
36-87 (41%)
12-67 (18%)
Sacks By-Yards
Sacked-Yards Lost
Field Goals-Attempts
Total Turnovers Lost
Total Turnovers Gained
Turnover Margin
KSU 31, BGSU 30

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