KENT: There was a lot more going on the last time Kent State traveled to Mobile, Ala., to play a game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Back in January, the Flashes arrived to the hoopla of parades and news conferences for the program’s first bowl game in 40 years to take on Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
The return visit nine months later comes today against South Alabama under much different circumstances. KSU (2-5) is struggling with injuries that have decimated a once-promising roster. To that point, the message of coach Paul Haynes to his players was simple.
“The message I gave to these guys on Sunday is that we have a five-game season,” Haynes said. “And we gotta go 5-0 for us to achieve our goal and make sure we’re bowl-eligible. So, every game is a big game for us right now.”
And if today’s game is anything like the only other time the teams faced each other, it could come down to the wire. During the 2011 season, Kent State defeated South Alabama 33-25. It began as a laugher with the Flashes jumping out to a 33-7 lead, but ended in a nail-biter when the Jaguars responded with 18 unanswered points.
In that game, Anthony Meray ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns and Trayion Durham ran for 72 yards for the Flashes. Receiver Tyshon Goode added a touchdown catch and safety Luke Wollet had two interceptions.
All four players will be in uniform for the rematch. KSU hopes to return home from Mobile this time with a better outcome. The last trip ended with a 17-13 bowl loss to Arkansas State, which is a member of the Sun Belt Conference along with South Alabama.
“South Alabama [doesn’t] care how we’re feeling,” Haynes said. “So we can’t sit around and sulk about what’s happened [with the losing record and slew of injured players]. We have to move forward.”
The Flashes will be without starting quarterback Colin Reardon (left ankle) and starting kicker/punter Anthony Melchiori (right hamstring).
“Brad Miller stepped in for our kicking responsibilities, [Andrew] Horning has stepped in for our punting responsibilities and David Fisher at quarterback,” said Haynes, who later admitted he’s never coached a team this snake-bitten by injuries. “Those are the main ones, but we still got a lot of guys [hurting]. [Defensive lineman] Rosie [Nix] is banged up like crazy right now, [offensive linemen Jason] Bitsko with his ankle and Pat McShane with his knee. [There are injuries] all over the place.”
Haynes still sees plenty of fight in the Flashes with five games to go.
“Nate Terhune [broken left leg suffered at LSU] went out there for eight plays [last week at Ball State] and we weren’t keeping him on the sideline,” Haynes said. “Our guys are champing at the bit to get out there. I say it as a joke, but we need strait jackets to keep guys off the field because they want to get out there for their teammates.
“That’s why I love this locker room. You’ve got guys who are going out there with one arm and one leg going out there and giving it all they have each week … The guys who can’t go, it’s the next-guy-in mentality and move forward. We still have a chance to go to a bowl game and finish [the season] out right.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. 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.