KENT: Survival was Kent State’s unofficial motto heading into last week’s season opener at Alabama.
Now with second-ranked Alabama out of the way, the Golden Flashes have shifted their thoughts back to getting a victory when Louisiana visits Dix Stadium for KSU’s home opener at 7 tonight.
The Flashes escaped in relatively good health after a 48-7 drubbing in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Ragin’ Cajuns played No. 9 Oklahoma State nearly even in the first half before allowing 24 second-half points and falling 61-34.
In the little bit of history that exists between the two schools, Louisiana defeated Kent State 44-27 in Lafayette, La., in 2008.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as a lot of people might think,” Flashes first-year coach Darrell Hazell said. “That being said, I believe we are capable of winning this football game.”
Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith made it through last week’s competition unscathed, thanks in part to a pared-down offensive plan that purposely limited his scrambling so he could remain protected in the pocket where he would take fewer hits.
However, the Flashes did lose senior long snapper Ryan Hidalgo to a knee injury against Alabama.
“He messed up his knee on a noncontact play,” Hazell said, noting that there’s already been a conversation about obtaining a possible medical red shirt. “We’re just not sure if that’s something he and his family wants to pursue, as he’s on target to get his degree. But we’ll see.”
In the meantime, Hazell said the Flashes are lucky to have unusual depth at the long-snapping position with fifth-year senior Alex Thomasson available to replace Hidalgo.
“That’s a break for us, because not many teams have two of those guys,” he said.
Offensively, Kent State struggled to get much going last week. The Flashes finished with minus-nine rushing yards to go along with 99 passing yards for a total offense of just 90 yards.
“[Alabama’s] a very good team,” Hazell said. “But our execution on offense was not nearly up to where it needs to be. We dropped too many footballs.”
Junior Matthew Hurdle dropped two passes on the opening drive and committed a costly personal foul later in the game, so Hazell said he expects University of Kentucky transfer Eric Adeyemi to play an even bigger role in the offense.
Against Alabama, Adeyemi did a little bit of everything en route to piling up 130 all-purpose yards on six kick returns, a punt return, one catch and one run.
One positive from last week was the Flashes’ defense, which forced five Alabama turnovers, including four interceptions.
“Our secondary had a big day, but I told those guys, ‘Make sure you thank the guys up front, that’s where it all starts,’ ” KSU defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said.
In an effort to beef up the defense against Louisiana, Hazell said junior college transfer C.J. Malauulu will move into the starting weak-side linebacker spot manned by Byron Tyson last week.
“Our defense came up with five turnovers against Alabama,” Hazell said. “When you do that, you’re going to win a lot of games. But our special teams didn’t do a very good job and that put our defense in some tough positions.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns will test the Flashes with an option offense and multiple quarterbacks.
Although junior Blaine Gautier started against Oklahoma State, senior Chris Masson ranks sixth all-time in passing (4,383 yards) in the team’s history and senior Brad McGuire completed the longest pass of last week’s game, a 43-yard strike in the first quarter.
In addition, Louisiana features a big tight end target for whichever quarterback is in the game — last year’s Mackey and Biletnikoff Award candidate Ladarius Green. As a freshman in ’08, Green caught a 55-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter against KSU. Last season, he led all tight ends with 79.4 receiving yards per game, 18 yards per catch and seven touchdowns.
“He’s a big, physical target we’re going to have to keep our sights on at all times,” Hazell said.
The Flashes have high hopes for the home opener’s outcome.
“There are a lot of positives we can take out of that first game,” said freshman running back Anthony Meray. “We competed with one of the top teams in the nation. We went out there and we played our butts off the whole game, so we see that we have a lot of fight on our team. That’s good, because we are gonna have another battle on our hands.’’