Kent State football is set to play on Wednesday, Nov. 4 for the first time since the Flashes’ bowl game win last winter.
All fall sports had been postponed to the spring, but a vote by the Mid-American Conference council of presidents on Sept. 25 reversed that decision for football only.
Coach Sean Lewis held an Oct. 1 press conference to talk about his team’s preparations to return to play.
Lewis, who is entering his third season at the helm, thanked Kent and MAC leadership for making the return possible and talked about his team’s preparation.
The team has been on campus and practicing in a limited capacity since June, but is now having full-contact, traditional practices.
Lewis talked about the importance of following school and conference COVID-19 guidelines as practice picks up.
“Now it is time to play ball, and we place tremendous value on doing that,” he said. “It’s something we talk about with our kids a bunch; if something has really high value then you have to have tremendous discipline and show some sacrifices and restraints. This is what it takes.”
Kent State is coming off of a 7-6 record in 2019, its most wins since 2012, and a victory in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
The original 2020 season saw Kent State set to face some major Power 5 competition in the likes of Penn State, Kentucky and Alabama.
This expedited season will see the Flashes play a conference-only schedule, but Lewis said he is not concerned about jumping directly into conference play, despite still not knowing who his team will play first.
“It is not going to change our preparation in a huge way; our number one thing is to control our controllables and give ourselves a chance to win,” Lewis said. “The unique thing [this season] is not knowing who our first opponent is, so it is a little hard to game plan and make preparations.”
The conference-only schedule and nebulous first opponent are very unusual for a college football season, but Lewis said he tries to look at the situation as “an opportunity for growth.”
He praised everyone involved in helping his players, from coaches and training staff to support staff and the university’s mental health services to the players themselves.
The return to play was largely enabled by the commitment of the MAC to provide rapid antigen testing to all teams.
This week, teams will start a four-time-a-week testing protocol for players, coaches, band members, dance and cheerleading teams and anyone else directly involved in the program.
Football players from Kent State, and teams across the MAC, made a push on social media for MAC director Jon Steinbrecher to reevaluate the conference’s postponement following the move by the Big 10 to reverse its own decision to postpone the fall football season.
The MAC was the first FBS conference to announce a postponement of all fall sports, and the last to announce that it would in fact play a football season before the spring.
Lewis also made a statement on social media urging the MAC to return to the issue of a fall season, and talked about the emotion shared among the team when the council of presidents voted to go back on its decision.
“That was a tremendous sense of joy to share with our kids,” he said. “It just gave our kids an extra shot of life to have a purpose to be chasing and be able to circle a date where they know they will be able to compete.”
Owen MacMillan is a sports editor. Contact him at email@example.com.
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