Kent State will play in its first bowl game since 2012. The Flashes ended the season on a three-game winning streak after starting the season 3-6. Here are five takeaways from coach Sean Lewis' Friday press conference.
1. Matt Bahr’s Kent State football career is over.
The six-year senior’s time at Kent State is over after a season-ending surgery.
“He had some surgery at the end of the season so he won’t be with us,” Lewis said at his Friday press conference.
Bahr finished his Kent State career with 182 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and an interception in 48 games played.
2. Trying to contain Jordan Love
Love declared for the NFL Draft on Tuesday. His stats are better than any quarterback the Flashes have faced up until this point. He has completed 60.5 percent of his throws, while throwing for 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 3,085 yards.
“The quarterback’s we’ve played in the (MAC) have been good, but this kid’s a special talent,” Lewis said. “He has some special traits as a quarterback and as an athlete. He can really do it all. He can hurt you in a lot of different ways.”
Love’s completed a pass of at least 30 yards in every game so far this season, while throwing for two or more touchdowns five times.
“We have to really control the things that we can control and do a great job with our preparation,” Lewis said. “We need to do a great job on game day communicating to make sure that he earn everything to make sure we don’t give him any freebies. He’s kind of a good shooter, as in if he gets hot and he gets rolling, he gets streaky and he can be really, really dangerous.
The Flashes rank 55th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (221.4 ypg). However, senior safety Jamal Parker, who has a team-leading three interceptions will miss the first half of the bowl game after a targeting penalty in the second half of the team’s 34-26 win at Eastern Michigan on Nov. 29.
“Next man up,” Lewis said of Parker’s first half absence. “I think it’ll be a great shot of life when he comes out on the field during that second half.”
“(We need to) know that we’re not going to stop him per say, but we’re going to limit him,” Lewis said. “We’re going to do a great job collectively on defense, making sure all 11 guys are on the same page.”
3. Utah State’s recent postseason experience
The Aggies have played in a bowl game every season since 2011. They are 4-3 over that time period with the most recent being a 52-13 win over North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl last season.
Over that same time period Kent State made one bowl game. In 2012, they lost 17-13 to Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
“I think now regardless of whether you’ve done it before or you’ve done it a bunch, every bowl experience is unique, every experience is different,” Lewis said. “Every team I’ve been on, as a player and as a coach, kind of presents its own unique, fun challenges.”
4. Kent State’s six straight one possession games could help them.
The Flashes are 3-3 in games decided by one possession, including a current three-game win streak.
“I think everything we’ve gone through this year, and everything we’ve gone through in the past two years has served as very advantageous for us,” Lewis said. “When we lost those three tough ones to Ohio, Miami and Toledo, we learned great lessons from that.”
The one common trend in the past six games has been opposing teams running the ball more. During that time span, opposing teams have 50 carries in a game three times. The Flashes are 2-1 in those games, despite being a bottom five rush defense and giving up almost 250 yards per game on the ground.
Utah State eclipsed 50 carries just once this season. They finished with 56 carries for 240 yards in a 34-24 win over Colorado State on Sept. 28. Colorado State finished the season with the 102nd ranked rushing defense in the country, allowing 195.8 rushing yards per game.
5. Utah State’s fast-paced offense could lead to a high scoring game.
Utah State has 10 games where they ran at least 70 plays. Kent State has five games where they eclipsed the 70 play mark. The Aggies were 7-3 in games where they ran at least 70 plays, averaging 32.6 points per game. The Flashes were 3-2 in such games, averaging 36.6 points per game.
“It’s one of those things that I think with all of the factors involved,” Lewis said. “We’re a week out. There’s rain in the forecast, which can play into it. It’s like anything else, you watch the tape, you evaluate, you put together a plan, you prepare for what you see on tape and then when you get into the actual game itself you have to make the necessary adjustments for how the game plays out.”
However, Lewis did admit that the teams have similar philosophies, and that he looked forward to the matchup.
“I love our matchup,” Lewis said. “From our early studies we’ve been doing this week, there’s a lot of similarities. Philosophically, with (Utah State) coach (Gary) Andersen being at Wisconsin and talking to the people that I knew when he was up there, and the way that he runs his program, there’s some similarities.”
Contact Ian Kreider at firstname.lastname@example.org