Stephanie Storm

DETROIT: It’s a good thing Kent State coach Darrell Hazell doesn’t need any extra incentive to get ready for a game that just might land his Golden Flashes a BCS bowl bid.

That’s because, unlike many of his coaching peers, Hazell does not have a bonus in his contract for such an accomplishment.

Considering that Kent State, which USA Today called “the weakest program in the FBS” in a Thursday article, hasn’t been to any bowl game since 1972, that is not a surprise.

Too bad for Hazell, who has already earned $35,000 in bonuses and has the potential to pick up another $20,000, according to a story in USA Today on Wednesday.

When asked about the absence of a bowl bonus, Hazell laughed it off.

“I should probably renegotiate my contract with our athletic director,” he said with a laugh, pointing to the back of the media room where Kent State Athletic Director Joel Nielsen stood.

After a hearty laugh from those in the room, Hazell was asked if he’d even considered having a BCS bowl clause added to his contract.

“No, actually I didn’t, to be honest with you,” he said.

According to USA Today, Hazell’s bonus is broken down as: $5,000 for winning the Mid-American Conference East Division, $10,000 for reaching a bowl game and $20,000 for surpassing six Division I wins in the season ($5,000 for each additional win).

Hazell can still earn up to an additional $20,000 in bonuses, with his contract also calling for $5,000 for defeating Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game tonight, another $5,000 for winning whatever bowl game the Flashes play in and $10,000 for the additional two wins.

By comparison, consider that Alabama coach and former Kent State player Nick Saban could pick up an additional $110,000 for playing in a BCS Championship Game and $200,000 for winning it.

Although the spoils for a BCS bowl berth are not spelled out in Hazell’s contract, Nielsen said Thursday that Kent State President Lester Lefton still has the discretion to further reward Hazell, who signed a three-year, $900,000 contract before the 2011 season.

Key matchup

One area where Kent State might have an edge tonight is its defensive line, led by first-team All-MAC defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, against the Northern Illinois offensive line. The Huskies have five new starters, with four players graduating and another lost for the season with an injury in fall camp.

“One of the main reasons we’re here is those guys,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said. “We have five new starters and we’ve had some guys in and out of the lineup due to normal things that happen from a bumps-and-bruise standpoint. We’re tied for least sacks in the league [10] and we’re the No. 1 rushing offense in the league [245.0].

“[Quarterback] Jordan [Lynch] is a good football player, but it all starts with what happens on the snap. Are we putting a body on a body and making holes and finishing blocks and keeping people off the runners? Yes, we are. Tomorrow we have a great challenge because they have one of the best fronts we’ve played against.”

Hazell said he couldn’t tell on film that the Huskies have an entirely new unit.

“They play extremely well together,” he said. “I think the thing they do very well is cover guys up so their playmakers can make some plays.”

Keep away from Dri

Opponents have been trying to keep the ball out of the hands of KSU speedster Dri Archer on kickoff returns since the Ball State game Sept. 29, allowing the Golden Flashes an average drive start of the 37.6 yard line.

Doeren said he won’t decide what the Huskies are going to do with Archer until he sees how far kicker Tyler Wedel is getting the ball during warm-ups.

“Pre-game is going to be pretty big on what we end up deciding to do with some of our kick placements,” Doeren said. “They’ve lined up a couple different ways back there, too. Sometimes there are places you can sit the ball down so you don’t get a return. Part of it will be Tyler Wedel. Without a wind and the environment we’re going to be in, we might be in a situation where we think he can kick the ball out of the end zone. If he can do that, we’d be extremely happy.”

As for Archer’s skills on offense, Doeren said: “He’s fun to watch. Defending him is a different story. He’s not just a fast guy. He accelerates and changes direction, but he does run with a purpose and breaks tackles has great vision and has great reaction. We’ve got to squeeze blocks and restrict lanes and tackle well and that’s easier said than done.”

Archer has been limited in practice with a sprained left ankle, but said: “I’m good. I’ll be ready to play tomorrow night.”

Who’s an underdog?

The Huskies are seven-point favorites against the Golden Flashes, but that didn’t seem to faze Hazell.

“To be perfectly honest, I never look at the underdog scores and all that stuff,” he said. “It’s about what we do and our execution. I know what kind of football team we have. If we execute, we have a chance to win the football game.”