KENT: Pressure time? Must be Freddy time.
At least that’s how Kent State’s senior kicker Freddy Cortez feels this season, on or off the field.
Take Monday morning, for example. After participating in coach Darrell Hazell’s weekly news conference, he was asked by a group of student media if he’d grab a microphone and step in front of a camera to record a quick “send off” for KSU’s TV2 to air during game broadcasts as the station heads to commercial.
“No problem,” Cortez said. “I always perform in the clutch.”
As soon as the camera began to roll, a wide smile spread across his face and the charismatic Cortez performed a smooth send off in Spanish that earned applause from those in the room.
“Told ya,” Cortez said, taking a bow. “I’m always good under pressure.”
Cortez has been just as cool in the face of pressure on the field this season for the Golden Flashes (6-1, 4-0 Mid-American Conference), who beat Western Michigan 41-24 Saturday.
Cortez made both of his field-goal attempts, including a season-high 46-yarder, in the win. In the fourth quarter, he booted a 43-yarder that gave the Flashes 34-24 lead that sealed the win.
Cortez also had three kickoffs for touchbacks and went 5-for-5 on extra points, tying former quarterback Josh Cribbs as Kent State’s all-time scoring leader with 246 points. For his efforts, Cortez was honored as the MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week.
“It’s definitely an honor to be up with there with Josh, especially being who he is,” said Cortez, who wore a protective walking boot on his right foot after spraining it during a warm-up session earlier in the day.
As KSU was battling from behind in the third quarter, Cortez knew exactly where he stood in relation to the points record.
“I knew how many points I needed to tie it  and I knew how many points  I needed to break it,” he said. “I told some people, but on that last extra point I just kind of smiled under my helmet and told myself, ‘there it is.’ ”
With the game on the line, there wasn’t time to make a big deal about Cortez’s career achievement. In fact, no one even thought to save a game ball.
“I didn’t get the ball, but we got a win,” he said. “That was the most important thing.”
Cortez also shrugged off worries over whether the ankle sprain would be a problem come Saturday when the Flashes travel to New Jersey to take on No. 15 Rutgers.
“It changes the whole game having a kicker like Freddy,” Hazell said. “He’s got tremendous range and I have a lot of confidence to put him in for 45-, 50-yard field goals if the circumstances are right.”
Two other Flashes earned weekly honors. Sophomore running back Trayion Durham earned his second MAC East Offensive Player of the Week award, and senior linebacker Luke Batton was named co-National Linebacker Performer of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.
Durham ran for a career-high 124 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and had seven runs that resulted in first downs. He contributed a 19-yard touchdown run on fourth down in the second quarter and had another 33-yard run in the fourth quarter that set up the Flashes’ go-ahead touchdown.
“I talked to Trayion this summer about being the closer,” Hazell said. “For us to win games in the fourth quarter, he’s going to have to carry the ball eight to 10 times. He really took response to that and has been doing an unbelievable job in the fourth quarter.”
Batton led the KSU defense with 14 tackles and had a hand in three of the six turnovers forced by the defense. The defensive captain, Batton scooped up two fumbles, and returned one for an 83-yard touchdown. Batton also tipped a pass that was intercepted and had a pass breakup. In his past two games, Batton has 30 tackles.
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.