Kent State defeated Miami on Saturday night at wet, soggy Dix Stadium 29-19. You can pick apart the statistics all you want. Miami had more first downs (26 to 13), more plays ran (91 to 52), more total yards (552 to 250), more time of possession (34:38 to 24:19) and a much better third down conversion rate (9/17 to 2/11), but Kent State found a way to win the game, that in year's past they may have given away. The story of the game was Kent State forcing five turnovers and not committing any of their own. The game was also largely about field position. Kent State is turning special teams into its friend instead of its foe after several years of dismal play in the kicking game. Freshman place kicker Freddy Cortez was a cool customer on Saturday night, kicking three field goals including the one that sealed the game with 1:19 left. Jacquise Terry returned to running back from wide receiver and ran for 103 yards on 15 carries.
THE TURNOVERS DECIDE IT
On a night where Kent State was out matched in just about every offensive category from a statistical standpoint, turnovers were the big key to the game. Kent State’s defense forced four Miami fumbles and recovered three of them to go along with two interceptions. “We did a couple of things that were really good that we haven’t done,” Head Coach Doug Martin said. “Number one is that we had no turnovers tonight. That’s the first time our offense has gotten that done in quite some time, especially on a night like tonight with the rain and the weather.” The last time Kent State had 0 turnovers in a game was the 2008 Miami game on October 25 in a 54-21 win. After the game Martin was asked if he felt like his team “stole a game” tonight because of the large discrepancy in offensive production for both teams. “No I feel like we earned a win because we didn’t turn the ball over,” he quickly replied. “Turnover margin is the number one dictator of who wins and loses. We lost last week to Iowa State because we turned the ball over and this week we didn’t and that was the biggest difference for us. To me, not turning the ball over was the biggest thing we could have done tonight.”
RUNNING TO WIN
Kent State made a big commitment to the running game on Saturday night. With wet, rainy conditions all night, Kent State ran the ball 41 times for 173 yards, a 4.2 average. Jacquise “Speedy” Terry emerged as the work horse on Saturday night. Terry, who spent some time at wide receiver, was moved back to running back and he delivered his first career 100 yard rushing game. On the game clinching drive in the fourth quarter, Terry ran the ball on seven consecutive plays for 54 yards. “It felt pretty good,” Terry said. “You know me switching from receiver to running back. Coach told me he wanted me to make plays. I thought about it all week. You know when my opportunity came, I just had to go in and make plays.” Terry wasn’t the only running back to get in on the action as the Flashes spread out the football. Andre Flowers carried the ball eight times for 37 yards. Dri Archer carried the ball 4 times for 28 yards and QB Giorgio Morgan carried six times for 20 yards. “I don’t want to go out there and give the game away like we did Iowa State just because you want to be hard headed and throw it,” Martin said. “So we told the team coming in, it’s going to be bad weather, we’ve got to be able to run the football and take our shots throwing it at particular times.” Kent State only attempted 11 passes.
Kent State’s special teams helped them win another game on Saturday night. Anthony Bowman returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter after Miami took a 3-0 lead. Derek McBryde was able to block a punt that led to a field goal and Freddy Cortez stepped up to the plate in a big way for the Golden Flashes with the first three field goals of his career, including one that clinched the game with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter. Cortez connected on 37, 42 and 34 yard field goals. “I just see every kick as just another kick,” Cortez said. “I don’t try to put pressure on myself. It is just me doing my job out there.” Martin credited holder Anthony Magazu for adjusting well to a couple snaps that weren’t perfect. “We’ve been haunted so much with special teams the last few years, it’s so refreshing to know that you can make plays and win games in that area,” Martin said.
Giorgio Morgan got the start at quarterback for the Golden Flashes on Saturday night. Morgan was 3 of 8 for 22 yards along with 6 rushing attempts for 20 yards. He aggravated his injured ankle in the third quarter but did return. Spencer Keith came in and his first play from scrimmage he fired a 56 yard touchdown pass to senior Jameson Konz. Keith was 2 of 3 for 55 yards. “You know what, we’ve got two great quarterbacks, and that’s a good problem to have,” Martin said. “I’m really comfortable with both of those guys.” Miami safety Jordan Gafford said the RedHawks were prepared for either signal caller. “We saw both on film, so we knew a little bit about what both quarterbacks could do and what they bring to the table.
How about the play from Miami redshirt freshman QB Zac Dysert. Dysert was 31 of 53 for 337 yards and also ran 17 times for 107 yards, many of which came on scrambles when he was flushed from the pocket. Dysert kept the tired Kent State defense off balance all night. Dysert will be a nightmare for MAC defensive coordinators for the next four years, as they try to defend him. Dysert has a little Ben Roethlisberger in him with his ability to avoid the rush, sometimes with a stiff arm that he makes look easy. “I wouldn’t say it caught us off guard,” LB Cobrani Mixon said. “I would say we just missed tackles and stuff like that. It was us. We made him look good out there. If we wrap him up then those plays don’t happen.” Kent State may have missed some tackles, but Dysert deserves the bulk of the credit for making play after play and keeping his team in the game. Dysert did commit three turnovers however which he was quick to point out after the game.
It was a tired Kent State defense on Saturday night. Miami ran a whopping 91 plays and had possession of the ball for more than 34 minutes of the game. The defense got the big turnovers to get off the field as Miami only punted once and another one blocked.
TRICK THEN TREAT
Kent State pulled off an interesting trick play call and converted it for a touchdown on a 28 yard run by Dri Archer. Early in the second quarter, Kent State rushed up to the line. Archer and Sam Kirkland were in the backfield tight to the line. Archer took a handoff between Morgan’s legs and then Archer stood still. As Morgan, Kirkland and the rest of the offensive line carried out the fake to the right sideline, Archer raced down the left sideline for an easy touchdown.
HURDLE AS THE WILDCAT
That trick play wasn’t the only new wrinkle that Kent State showed in its offense Saturday night. Wide Receiver and former quarterback Matthew Hurdle lined up in the shotgun as QB. Hurdle, a Richmond, VA native, ran the option a few times including one on a 3rd and short situation. On the final drive of the game KSU went to this package and it backfired as Hurdle lost 10 yards on the play making for a tougher field goal for Freddy Cortez.
Brian Lainhart has forced 13 turnovers in his last 11 games and has an interception in each game this season…Miami got their first lead of the season with a 3-0 lead, it lasted for 14 seconds as Bowman ran back the kickoff for a touchdown…It was the first kick return for KSU since Shawn Bayes did so in 2007…Mixon led both sides with 10 tackles and its for fourth time in a row he’s led KSU in tackles…KSU is 1-0 in the MAC for the first time since 2006…The blocked punt was the first since 11/17/07…The Flashes 95 yard drive in the second quarter was their longest since 11/10/05 when they had a 97 yard drive…Kent State has now defeated Miami in back to back seasons for the first time since 1988.