Now the question must be asked that many have had in the backs of their minds for a long time.
Will Doug Martin return as Kent State's Head Coach in 2011?
After Kent State's poor showing against Temple that ends any real chance of winning the MAC East, Head Coach Doug Martin was visibly agitated at questions geared towards either the sidelines or his teams' physicality.
Maybe "motivated" isn't the right word here, but there was a clear and evident difference in how lively the Temple sideline was compared to Kent's, particularly after Cortez's missed field goal in the first quarter and Flowers' lost fumble after halftime.
From the moment they walked onto the field, the Temple sideline locked arms, danced and swayed to songs played by the PA or from their own singing voices--even in the press box, the chanting from the song "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes could be heard.
Temple Head Coach Al Golden set a clear example in the 38 degree weather by wearing only a dress shirt and tie. Quarterback Mike Gerardi even said Golden was a little crazy. However, it's very clear the players fed off his energy.
Most of the Kent sideline huddled together for most of the game in parkas. Temple brought four heated benches--and didn't use them.
Maybe there's not a lot of stock that should be put into how lively a sideline is--not all coaches want the sideline to sway and jump around like Al Golden's team did on Saturday both before and during the game-- but the Owls made plays and Kent didn't.
That's not necessarily Doug Martin's fault. The players make plays, the coaches coach and it can be argued who is more responsible for motivating the players--the coach or themselves.
I'm more-so in the latter camp.
Granted, Martin made the Flashes one-dimensional from the get-go. Kent ran three run plays through the first 21 minutes, and one of those rushes was on third and nine from Temple's 15 yard line--an oddly conservative, take-the-points play-call for a coach who routinely goes for it on fourth and short anywhere near the 50 yard line.
KSU running backs had a respectable average even against a much larger defensive line, but the clear play-call of choice for Martin was a short pass along the line of scrimmage to Kirkland or Goode.
Against Akron, Martin dialed up every gadget-play and assertive call in his arsenal. In the biggest game in a long time for Kent, he rarely called for a pass longer than eight yards down field and abandoned the run really before he got off the bus.
I'll go on record and say I've liked the way Martin has handled this team. He's taken risks at various times all season (mostly on fourth and short calls) that are very easy for someone to second guess, which I never have. He's had to handle a sophomore quarterback and a talented but vastly undersized defensive front seven and turned them into the best defense in the conference. And don't forget about Eugene Jarvis, who was expected to play but has yet to return and most likely won't.
In fact the only single play-call I haven't agreed with (that stands out) is running the ball on third and nine from 15 yards out in the first quarter yesterday.
Many don't want to hear this viewpoint, but it still stands--the man is a true class-act and a wonderfully nice person who cares about his players. A coach like Doug Martin and his personality is an asset, and something that's not easy to come by.
And remember--making a coaching change just to bring in "change" isn't exactly an ideal scenario. If Martin were fired and another coach brought in, it won't change the fact that Kent State has one of the lowest budgets and staff salaries to work with in the FBS.
That being said, Kent State has not lived up to the hype this season, and on the field will always matter more than off, even though sometimes it should probably be the other way around.
If Martin is let go after this year, it will most likely be more of a victim of circumstance than a dire need for a coaching change.
New Athletic Director Joel Nielsen has put a new emphasis on the football program and is throwing a lot of marketing towards Dix Stadium. He's said multiple times that once the football program gets going and fans want to come out, that opens the door for success to every other program (his plan says crowds get excited for the football home opener, then Homecoming, then the Akron game and that all leads into basketball season). That translation is importance rests with wins over all else.
This new emphasis on football came in a year Kent State was picked to finish at-worst third in the East and stood a very good shot at bowl eligibility and a shot at the MAC championship with Temple and Ohio both coming to Dix.
Combine a new athletic director, a bigger spotlight on the program and unmet expectations, and that will make the blue and golden hot seat that much hotter.