KENT: Kent State’s offense against defense “jersey scrimmage” was Saturday morning, with the winner getting to wear the home blue jerseys during practice and drills for another year.
Aside from it being the first time this spring the offense and defense have gone against each other at full speed, the Golden Flashes had to deal with a bizarre snow flurry that hit midway through the scrimmage. Within about 10 minutes, the wind picked up considerably and the field became a thin blanket of white. Haynes thought the defense reacted well to the change while the offense hung their heads.
The story on the game, bad weather or not, was the defensive line, which led the way to a 50-24 win (KSU uses a scoring system that awards a different amount of points for particular plays, like a sack or a first down).
Playing without standout tackle Roosevelt Nix, the line still looked particularly impressive, led by three tackles for a loss and a safety by Richard Gray. In practice, Haynes had talked about how he feels the offensive line could be a real strength. At least on this day, it was apparent that unit was overmatched by Gray, Chris Fairchild and the rest of the Flashes’ front seven.
The defense had a couple of shining moments. Perhaps the most important, because it exemplifies what Haynes wants his offense to be about, came on a first-and-goal stand inside the 5-yard line. The offense turned to bruising running back Trayion Durham, who was stuffed on three consecutive carries and couldn’t get past the line of scrimmage on two of the three.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go with our attitude; a long way to go with who we’re going to be,” Haynes said. “That’s what we keep challenging them — what are we gonna be, who are we gonna be? We don’t have that identity yet.”
That “identity” is a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality, that opposing defenses can know a run up the middle is coming, and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. At least, that’s what Haynes is looking for.
“We get the ball to the 3-yard line, we’re going to pound it in,” he said. “That’s what you do. We don’t have that mentality right now, and we need to get it.”
The offensive line that Haynes has liked during practice has a good deal of work to do to bring that execution to the field. Next Saturday’s spring game will be a key test.
An MVP of the scrimmage wasn’t named, but cornerback Malcolm Pannell would have been the runaway favorite. Pannell returned an interception off of quarterback Luke Smurthwaite 29 yards for a touchdown and later blocked a field-goal attempt that led to another score after Jamal Roberts scooped it up and returned it 78 yards.
“He was looking at me the whole way,” Pannell said of his interception. “I slid outside. I knew what he was going to do. As soon as he hiked the ball I jumped the route and I knew right when I caught it I was going to take it to the house.”
Pannell played primarily with the second-team defense, but out of anyone, he probably did the most to play his way into the starting lineup. Darius Polk is entrenched as the No. 1 corner, and Kerrick Rhone got the start on the other side.
Quarterback David Fisher missed the scrimmage with an ankle injury but was on the sidelines. Haynes said he might be back for the spring game next week, but they’re being cautious. With him out, Colin Reardon took all the snaps with the first team and looked pretty good, finishing 8-of-14 for 75 yards and a touchdown. He could almost be counted as 8-of-11, as three incomplete passes came during that odd flurry of sideways snow. Chris Humphrey caught two passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Kyle Payton, who threw a terrific down-field block in Friday’s practice, had three catches for 25 yards.
A ring for Hank
A nice scene took place after the scrimmage for the man only known as “Hank” around campus. Hank Dunckel, who’s been a passionate and loyal fan of Kent State athletics for nearly four decades, and one who rarely misses a practice, if ever, was awarded with a KSU football championship ring from last season. Haynes said he remembers Hank from his playing days and Josh Cribbs, upon hearing the news, tweeted Hank congratulations.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ. and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.