KENT: The little things.
That’s what really jumped out to Kent State coach Darrell Hazell over the long holiday weekend as he and his staff dissected game film from the Golden Flashes’ season-opening 41-21 victory over visiting Towson on Thursday.
Kent State players have listened to and are putting into practice the little things that Hazell believes will lead to big things as the season progresses.
“You change a program with little things,” Hazell said during his weekly press conference Monday at the M.A.C. Center. “Going back though the film and evaluating, I saw every single person who touched the ball hand it to the official after a play – defensive players, offensive players, returners, specialists. That’s when you know the message is getting through that you win football games by doing the little things.”
But it wasn’t only the little things that sparked the Flashes in the rout. Big plays from junior Dri Archer led to an early KSU lead, showing why the unit is poised to play a big role in the team’s success this season.
Monday, Archer earned Mid-American Conference East Division Special Teams Player of the Week following his three-touchdown performance against Towson. He was also named National Kickoff Returner of the Week and earned All-Purpose Performer honorable mention by College Football Performance Awards.
The dynamic kick returner set the tone of the game by advancing the opening kickoff 57 yards to set up KSU’s first touchdown. In the second quarter, he returned his second kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown that pushed the Flashes’ advantage to 24-7.
Along with 155 kick-return yards, Archer ran eight times for 54 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first Kent State player to score three times in a game since former quarterback Julian Edelman in 2008. The all-around effort earned Archer KSU’s Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week Awards.
With Archer displaying his elite-level speed early in the game, Hazell admitted he was surprised the Tigers opted to kick to him again in the second quarter. When Archer made them pay by burning Towson for the long touchdown, Hazell figured the Flashes’ next opponent – host Kentucky on Saturday – will do its best to eliminate Archer’s impact.
“If you’re an intelligent guy, you’re probably not going to kick it to [Archer] too often,” Hazell said. “So we’re going to have to do other things to make sure he does get the ball … we’ll have some things scripted.”
Having the extra time this week to prepare to face Kentucky is an advantage for the Flashes. Having played Thursday, KSU has had plenty of time to wrap up the first week’s post-game film before turning its attention to the Wildcats.
Another plus for Hazell and staff (and likely many players in their apartments and dorms) was the luxury of watching Kentucky’s first game on television Sunday afternoon, as the Wildcats lost 32-14 to No. 25 Louisville.
“It definitely helps because you can see some signals and things like that that typically you can’t see off regular game film,” Hazell said. “It wasn’t a lot of things, but anytime you can see the mechanics of how they shuttle things in and out it’s good.”
Former Flashes standout Ishmaa’ily Kitchen was claimed off waivers by the Browns on Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 330-pound defensive lineman was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Baltimore Ravens in May. The Flashes’ four-year letterman from Cardinal Mooney High appeared in all four of the Ravens’ preseason games, recording six tackles and a sack. ... Former KSU safety Usama Young visited his alma mater Sunday and spoke to the Flashes after practice. Young was drafted by New Orleans in 2007 in the third round (66th overall) and was a member of the 2010 Super Bowl champion Saints. Young, who signed with the Browns last season and played in all 16 games as a backup, missed nearly all of the preseason this year with a quadriceps injury.
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.