KENT — A second consecutive 2-10 season in college football is just that. There's no sugarcoating it, no spinning it, no way to make that ugly mark acceptable by any standards.
But two wins does feel a little better in 2018 than it did a year ago for Kent State, based on the key pieces that surfaced both in Friday's 28-20 season-ending loss to Eastern Michigan at Dix Stadium and sporadically throughout the season.
Golden Flashes sophomore quarterback Woody Barrett broke the school's single-season completion record (229) after going 19-of-34 for 209 yards against the Eagles (7-5, 5-3 MAC). Junior tailback Jo-El Shaw rushed for a career-high 159 yards on 31 attempts and scored his seventh touchdown of the season, and junior wide receivers Antwan Dixon (five catches, 66 yards) and Mike Carrigan (3-57) both finished the year with over 500 yards receiving.
Consistency is all that's missing for these players and the Flashes (1-7 MAC) as a whole according to first-year coach Sean Lewis.
“We talk all the time about being consistently good, not occasionally great, and really dominating the play and the rep that's right in front of you,” Lewis said. “We need to carry the lessons that we learned this season into the offseason, so we have the focus and intensity that we need to make the plays that we need to because our kids are locked in.”
The Flashes cut an 18-point third-quarter deficit to eight, and were driving with a chance to potentially tie the score in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-six from the Eagles 35-yard line, Lewis tried to fool his foe by having Barrett throw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to junior wide receiver Kavious Price, who then tried to find Shaw breaking down the middle of the field.
But Kent State's 230-pound tailback was well covered, and Eagles junior rover Vince Calhoun easily intercepted the pass.
An unsuccessful fourth-down attempt early in the second half gave Eastern Michigan a short field that it used to take a 28-10 lead on a 32-yard touchdown run by senior running back Ian Eriksen (17 carries, 118 yards), his third touchdown of the game.
Eriksen's third touchdown capped a 28-0 run by the Eagles, after Kent State took a 10-0 lead in the first 3:41 of the game.
A 23-yard field goal by freshman kicker Matthew Trickett and a 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior safety Jamal Parker gave KSU the early advantage.
Eastern Michigan answered on its next drive when a 46-yard pass from senior quarterback Tyler Wiegers to junior receiver Matthew Sexton set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Eriksen.
Trailing 28-10 in the third quarter, KSU got back in it by marching 95 yards in 11 plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Shaw.
A 35-yard Trickett field goal cut the deficit to 28-20 with 8:18 to play. But after coming up with the fourth-down interception at the 4:28 mark, Eastern Michigan was able to run out the clock.