How much can one mental trait help athletes achieve their goals? Consider the Kent State football team, which is off to its first 3-1 start in 25 years in the second season under coach Darrell Hazell.
Confidence is perhaps the biggest reason why the Golden Flashes also are 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference.
Without that confidence, the underachieving offense wouldn’t have been able to piece together a game-winning, 94-yard drive in the final 2:05 against Ball State on Saturday. Especially not after the visiting Cardinals had just intercepted a Spencer Keith pass and turned it into a touchdown that gave them their first lead.
“When we threw the pick and allowed them to score, you could feel the momentum change,” Hazell said. “But there was nobody on the offensive side of the ball that had any doubt we were going to go all the way down field on the last drive — you could see it in their eyes. To convert on third-and-10 and fourth-and-10 and then take it in for the score and win, we gained a lot of confidence.”
Before this season, KSU players seemed to expect something to go wrong. Now they have learned to expect their hard work to pay off. The 45 points the Flashes scored against the Cardinals were the most in a game since 2008 and the 461 yards of offense were the most since 2009.
“When we started that last drive, although we were deep in our territory, everyone was just so positive,” senior right tackle Kent Cleveland said. “It was like, we have enough time and we have the playmakers to do it. Even when we got in the fourth-and-10 situation, no one ever had any doubt.”
The confidence is contagious and it wasn’t just senior quarterback Keith.
It was the offensive line and a young group of receivers that produced despite the continued absence of injured senior Tyshon Goode, whom Hazell said is expected to get a second opinion on his nagging left hamstring later this week.
“Our offensive line did a great job on the last drive,” Hazell said. “[Ball State] didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback and that allowed [Keith] to stand in there and make some nice completions. We also had a lot of receivers in that drive step up and do some nice things.”
Junior Dri Archer was honored Monday as the Mid-American Conference East Division Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season. In addition, Archer was also one of three players in the nation to earn a mention on the Paul Horning Award Weekly Honor Roll and also made the honorable mention list for National Kick Returner of the Week and All-Purpose Performer of the Week by College Football Performance Awards.
Archer returned a kickoff 99 yards — the second longest in team history — for a touchdown. He also had touchdown receptions of 23 and 33 yards, leading to a career-high 104 receiving yards. He added eight carries for 72 yards out of the backfield. Combined with his 174 yards on four kick returns, Archer’s 350 all-purpose yards were the highest in a Division I game this season.
Archer’s eight touchdowns in four games (including at least one in each game) ties him for sixth in the nation in scoring at 12 points per game. He also leads all of Division I in both kick return average (42.7) and all-purpose yards (232.8).
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.