Like Miami I had a difficult time finding a Kent Blog earlier this season, until I stumbled upon the KSU Sports Blog maintained by David Carducci. Carducci has been covering Kent for more than a decade in a professional capacity and he was kind enough to take me up on my offer at a quick Q and A regarding this weeks opponent.
Q: Kent was picked to finish near last in the East by many news outlets. You outperformed expectations but were one drive from Bowling Green away from coming into this game with a great shot at a Bowl, How is this season sitting with Kent?
A: This season has created some hope. Kent State fans see the young talent in players like true freshmen Spencer Keith, Tyshon Goode and Dri Archer, and sophomores like Jacquise Terry and Kendrick Pressley. I think their potential has the Golden Flashes faithful genuinely excited about the future. Expectations are regularly pretty low around here. So, when KSU found itself playing meaningful games in November, it sparked some interest. I know there is disappointment with the way the last two games have turned out, but I think most fans are choosing to see this as a stepping-stone season. They also recognize all of the injuries that could have devastated the season, and appreciate the fact that KSU was able to get as far as it did with so many youngsters pressed into service ahead of schedule. If they can win and finish at .500, it would be a great accomplishment.Q: Assuming Kent wins this game does 6-6 help Doug Martin keep his job longer? Many publications started the season with Martin near the top of their hot seat list.
A: I don't think Doug Martin was every really in any danger. The timing of athletic director Laing Kennedy's retirement at the end of the school year would have made it difficult for KSU to make a change. There is no way Kennedy would fire Martin, nor would he be allowed to hire a new coach, sticking a new AD with his hire. The new AD will be in place at the start of the summer. Coaching changes are not made at that time of year. The team would have already had spring practice and a new recruiting class would be in place. Even with another disappointing year, I think Martin was always coming back for 2010. Plus, Kent State wouldn't be willing to buy out Martin's contract and then have to pay a new coach. The athletic budget is too tight.Q: Defensively Kent is a different team this year three sacks per game and eight tackles for loss, what's in the water in north east Ohio this season.
A: Kent State has just hit with some very good athletes on their front four. Kevin Hogan has always been a pretty good edge rusher. The guy they had been waiting for was Monte Simmons, who dominated spring practice and preseason camp with his athleticism in his first two years, but never carried that over to the regular season until this year. He is a special talent. Those two on the edge have also been made better by some veterans on the interior in tackles like Aaron Hull and Sam Frist. Those two have done a nice job of collapsing pockets from the inside and forcing quarterbacks into the arms of Hogan and Simmons.Q: In your view where does the Quarterback situation sit after this season is done? Magazu is gone and Keith and Morgan have shown next to nothing does Gabriel Henderson come in here next year and take the job?
A: I couldn't disagree more with the idea that Keith has shown next to nothing. Keith is a star in the making. He is smart and accurate and a great leader. He is accurate as anyone in the league with the long ball. And he puts up pretty big numbers. Take a look at the numbers from his last four games ... Against Ohio, he was 23-for-38 for 273 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. After a slow start, he took that game over in the second half. A week later, he out-dueled Western Michigan's Tim Hiller, completing 24-of-34 passes for 373 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Against Akron, when KSU's running game was shut down and everyone in the stadium knew he was going to throw it, Keith completed 30-of-59 for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers would have been far better if not for seven or eight drops – one that would have gone for an easy 80-yard touchdown.
And then there was last week when he shredded Temple in the first half. He was 17-for-29 for 238 yards at intermission, then he separated his shoulder in the second play of the second half. He would have put up close to 500 yards.
So in his last four games, he completed 58-percent of his passes (95-for-162), for 1,254 yards ... that's an average of 313.5 yards per game, and he missed an entire half against Temple.
The MAC will be hearing a lot about Spencer Keith in the years to come. He is as good as any MAC freshman quarterback I've seen in 10 years covering the league.
(Note from Bull Run: Given some of the QB's that have come through the MAC in the last decade that is saying a ton about Kieth)Q: Perdition time, does Buffalo avenge last years debacle in Amherst?
A: I think it does. Keith had emerged as the heart and soul of this team as a freshman. When he got hurt at the start of the second half, it sucked the air out of that sideline. Morgan was a disaster when he came in. I don't know how much Magazu has in his arm after all of his elbow problems. The questions at quarterback and KSU's inability to get any push up front in the last few weeks in the running game are going to make it difficult for the offense to move the football. I think Buffalo wins, and possibly wins big.