Two play calls defined Kent State’s 35-33 loss at Toledo.
The first play call came on 3rd-and-6 from the Toledo 26-yard line. Junior quarterback Dustin Crum threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to senior receiver Kavious Price, who scrambled right and pump faked. He dodged four defenders before being brought down for a loss of 16 yards. The play drove the Flashes out of field goal range with about a minute to play in the first half, trailing 28-17. The next play, they were forced to punt.
“It’s something that we knew we had a chance with,” coach Sean Lewis said. “But situation dictates that we shouldn’t make that (play) call there. We thought we had the look that we wanted, but it didn’t hold up on the edge. Again, it’s a bad call from the jump. I shouldn’t have made that call with us being in field goal range.”
The second call came on a two-point conversion, trailing 35-33 with 5:27 left. Crum faked a jet sweep handoff to senior receiver Antwan Dixon and came up a few inches short of the conversion.
“I thought we had it to be honest,” Crum said. “When I had my back to the goal line, I thought I was falling in. It was a good play call, and I should have punched it in honestly.”
After the failed conversion, Toledo ran out the clock, handing the Flashes their third straight one possession loss, falling to 3-6, 2-3 Mid-American Conference. With the win, Toledo improved to 6-3, 3-2 MAC.
Crum finished 14 of 18 for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He threw five times the entire second half after completing 9 of 14 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
“The second half we were just taking what the defense gave us,” Crum said. “They were changing up what they were doing to stop what we were doing. It was kind of just a cat and mouse game. We were just trying to be balanced and make them have to guard multiple things.”
He also eclipsed 2,000 passing yards in his career.
“It’s cool I guess,” Crum said. “I had no idea about that.”
The Flashes had one glaring omission from their roster, as senior running back Jo-El Shaw is no longer on the team.
“He's no longer on the team," Lewis said. "That's it."
When asked if he is no longer on the team for the same reason he was suspended for the Akron game on Oct. 12, Lewis dismissed the idea.
“No," Lewis said. "He's no longer on the team and no longer a part of the family. I'm not going to comment anymore about that."
In Shaw’s absence, sophomore running back Xavier Williams finished with a career-high 63 yards on 11 carries. He scored his first career touchdown on a 28-yard reception to cut the Rockets lead to 21-17 midway through the second quarter.
“It felt good to score my first touchdown, initially,” Williams said. “But at the end of the day it’s not something to get excited about because we didn’t get the W.”
Senior running back Will Matthews added 55 yards on 13 carries and a costly first half fumble that helped Toledo take an early 14-0 lead. True freshman running back Joachim Bangda finished with four carries for 25 yards in his first game since Oct. 12 at Akron when he suffered a hamstring injury.
In the past two games, the Flashes have struggled to produce early. After the win at Akron, Lewis told his team not to get complacent, citing the collapse of the 2017 Syracuse team after they defeated No. 2 Clemson 27-24. The Orange finished the season 0-5 with a final record of 4-8. Lewis was asked if Kent State’s recent losses were comparable to the Orange.
“I don’t think it’s the same circumstance at all,” Lewis said. “That conversation was just a foreshadowing to make sure that our kids were aware. Our kids have not stopped fighting at all. If they were just content with winning the (Wagon) Wheel, we wouldn’t have these close one possession games.”
Crum expanded on the team’s recent struggles in close games.
“I don’t want to say (the close losses) have defined our season, but it’s something we’re working through,” Crum said. “It’s just a matter of details and executing the little things… it sucks coming up short like that. This is one that’s going to hurt for a long time.”
The Flashes next game is Nov. 14 against Buffalo at Dix Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Contact Ian Kreider at firstname.lastname@example.org.