KENT: There is still some work to do.
That is the message Kent State football coach Darrell Hazell has delivered to his Golden Flashes. Three of his top players echoed the sentiment nearly word-for-word Monday at the team’s weekly news conference.
Just two days after cracking the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in nearly 40 years following a 48-32 victory over host Miami, the No. 25 Golden Flashes (9-1, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) refused to revel in the moment.
“We’ll worry about the rankings when the season’s over with,” Hazell said. “We don’t have time to concern ourselves with rankings right now.”
A win at Bowling Green on Saturday would give the Flashes the East Division championship and a berth in the MAC Championship Game.
“I’m not satisfied and I don’t think the team is satisfied just being ranked,” senior left guard Josh Kline said. “We still have to go out there and win the MAC, so that’s all we’re worried about this week.”
Said junior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix: “We still have two MAC games left. So, [the ranking is] great, but we still have to be the best in the MAC.”
“It’s awesome, but coach told us to not really worry about it too much because we have to continue to keep playing,” senior left tackle Brian Winters said. “But it is a great feeling.”
Hazell’s unspoken concern is likely that if the Flashes dwell too much on the current success, they won’t be focused enough to finish the task at hand.
KSU has won eight in a row since a 47-14 loss to Kentucky on Sept. 8.
Hazell has been impressed by a new aspect of his team every week during the streak. In the win over Miami, it was KSU’s ability to regroup after the RedHawks got their offense rolling in the second half.
“We kind of fell asleep a little bit there in that third quarter,” Hazell said. “We didn’t play as well in giving up some seam throws and we didn’t execute as well as we could on offense. But we responded when we had to to come away with a big win like that on the road.”
In the win over the RedHawks, running backs Dri Archer and Trayion Durham each went past 1,000 yards rushing for the season. That gave the offensive linemen plenty of reason to gloat since it was the first time KSU has ever had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.
“It’s very exciting as an O-line unit,” Kline said. “Those two are great running backs. You’ve got speed with Dri and Trayion’s just a bruiser. It’s a great feeling when you make a block and you know they’re just going to run past you or run through you.”
Durham (1,059 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Archer (1,043 yards, 12 touchdowns) have played well all season, but Hazell thought Saturday’s game was the first time the entire line has played so well together on the same day.
“[Winters and Kline] have been exceptional all year long,” he said. “But I thought the Miami game was our best performance of our whole offensive line of the year. All five of those guys graded out with winning performances, which hadn’t happened.”
With the Flashes finally getting some national attention, keeping their focus will be crucial to continuing their success.
“Coach has been stressing to us we have to come out and play as if this is just another game,” Winters said. “We can’t overcompensate for what we have in front of us. We just have to continue to go out and play football and keep working hard. When we’re all done, then we can look and see what the outcome is.”
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://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.