KENT: If it seemed like many of the Kent State football players were sleepwalking through much of the Golden Flashes’ game Saturday at South Alabama, that’s because for much of the afternoon, many were.
In his weekly news conference Monday, Paul Haynes was quick to label the 38-21 defeat to the host Jaguars “disappointing.” Then the first-year head coach promptly explained why he felt that was the case.
“As we talked about it as coaches, and I’m sure our players feel the same way, it wasn’t our best performance by any means,” Haynes said.
In fact, if not for a pair of plus 70-yard touchdowns by senior speedster Dri Archer, the outcome would have looked a lot worse.
“I don’t sugar-coat anything,” Haynes said. “It’s been tough for five out of the last six weeks.”
That’s because five of KSU’s last six games have been on the road, a tiresome stretch in which KSU went 1-5. Now, the travel-weary Flashes are just happy to have the luxury of being able to sleep in their own beds for a whole week.
“I may need my GPS to figure out how to get [to] the stadium,” Haynes joked. “But it’ll be good to get back in front of our home crowd and our students as we get back into conference [play].”
Haynes isn’t looking to use Kent State’s tough schedule this season as an excuse for having only a 32-14 road win against Western Michigan to show for the team’s efforts over the last month and a half. To him, their sluggish play Saturday is simply a built up result of many players being mentally and physically exhausted.
“The one thing you have to [remember] is that these guys also have to go to school,” he said. “That’s with us [returning home from road games]at 4 a.m., 3 a.m. and 1 a.m. recently and them going to study tables, classes and practice [in between]. That’s a lot to ask, and I feel for them. You look in their eyes and you look at their faces and you can see it. Then you go to bed check and guys are already asleep and it tells you the tale.”
Kent State (2-6, 1-3 in Mid-American Conference) may finally host an opponent in the comfortable confines of Dix Stadium for the first time in three weeks Saturday, but like most of the season, it’s not going to be an easy afternoon.
The Flashes face red-hot Buffalo, which has won its last five games and is tied with Bowling Green for first place in the MAC East Division standings. The Bulls (5-2, 3-0) haven’t just been victorious, they’ve destroyed their recent opponents by outscoring the last two by a score of 65-3 and the last four 148-29.
With four regular-season games remaining on a schedule that doesn’t offer a bye week until the very end of it, Haynes and his staff have adjusted the five-game season approach they adopted prior to last week’s game to a more typical day-to-day concentration the rest of the way.
“We’re not going to talk about the finish,” Haynes said. “We’re going to talk about this game and that’s it. We’re going to prepare for this game and play the type of football that Kent State knows how to play.”
For the Flashes, that not only means tough and physical, but also with eyes wide open.
“Week 13 is our bye week, so it’s tough [on guys with injuries],” said senior safety Luke Wollet, who has continued to play despite nursing a couple injuries. “But it’s the cards we were dealt. There’s no excuse, that’s life.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.