Thursday morning’s joint press conference saw Kent State coach Sean Lewis and Utah State coach Gary Andersen seated at the same table separated by the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl trophy. Unfortunately, the trophy was not a large metal smoothie; instead, small star cutouts, accompanied by a small white drawing of Texas formed a base angled upward toward a shiny chrome football formed the trophy that read “Champion.”
The coaches discussed several topics leading up to Friday’s game. Here are three that stood out.
1. Utah State quarterback Jordan Love will play.
Andersen confirmed Love will play the final game of his Utah State career on Friday. A report that Love had been cited for possession of marijuana on Dec. 14 resulted in speculation about his availability for the Frisco Bowl.
“There was never any thought that he wouldn’t play,” Andersen said. “We have policies set up just like (Utah State’s) statement says. Now, that’s a real statement. If you want to read that statement, that’s stuff from people who really care about kids and believe in things, believe in giving them opportunities. So read the university’s statement. It’s pretty clear that Jordan will play, and it’s not a bunch of written whatever.”
Andersen appeared visibly frustrated after initial reports contained inaccuracies involving the incident.
“I think it’s important to know that everything you read and every article is absolutely, 100% accurate,” Andersen said with a laugh. “As we go through there, the school was forced, the attorneys were forced to make a statement on an article that had a bunch of holes in it and was not all the way truthful. Where it all sits and what it all comes down to in the end is that we’ll see. I’m excited to see how it comes out in the end because I know where I believe it will end.”
Andersen expanded on what he called “inaccuracies” in some reports.
“I just hope the people that make statements, whoever makes the statements – I’m not saying that about the guy who wrote the article, he got the information somehow,” Andersen said. “But obviously, there was some inaccurate pieces to that article. You would know that by the way that (Utah State) reacted. You would know that by the way that the attorneys involved reacted, that there were some statements in there that were not truthful.
“So I just hope at the end of this whole thing, that those people can have the same miserable day that those kids had when these articles came out. I hope they can have the same miserable days. I’ll work hard, if I can, to make sure those days are miserable for those people. They won’t be as miserable. But it’s highly irritating to put kids in this setting, in this situation at a bowl game and to have to have them go through those hours and those times just because somebody told somebody something that obviously wasn’t completely correct. It’s a shame. It’s a pity.”
2. Andersen believes that Kent State’s run defense played better this season than statistics show.
The Flashes run defense ranked 127th out of 130 FBS teams, allowing close to 250 yards per game and 32 touchdowns this season. They played five rush offenses that ranked in the top 25 in the FBS. In those five games, opposing teams averaged 288.2 yards per game and scored 19 touchdowns on the ground. The Flashes were 2-3 in such games.
“You can look at both defenses,” Andersen said. “At times, they’ve played very well against the run and not so well against the run. I think there’s components that go into that. When you play the schedules that we play and the opponents that we play, these guys had Wisconsin, Auburn, Arizona State. Things can get really skewed. I think what you need to do when you talk about those things is break down our conference and see how we did.”
Kent State allowed 219 yards per game against eight Mid-American Conference opponents.
The Flashes won two of their final three games when opposing teams ran the ball 50 or more times, despite those teams averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring 10 touchdowns.
3. Lewis does not believe that Friday’s game will define his team’s season.
Kent State will play in its first bowl game since 2012, a game Lewis hopes will help usher in a new era of Kent State football. Not only will the Flashes be going for the first bowl win in the history of their program, but they also have the chance to obtain their first winning season in seven years. But Lewis doesn’t think his team’s season will be defined by one game.
“To say that what happens tomorrow evening in a highly competitive game between two really good teams defines the whole season and defines what these kids have done for the past 365 days, I can’t disagree more with that,” Lewis said. “This is going to be another story, another chapter in a fabulous season in a great run.”
But Lewis did admit finishing the season with a winning record and securing Kent State’s first bowl game victory would be a big deal.
“Right now, we’re sitting at 6-6, so we can’t really call ourselves winners at the end of the day,” Lewis said. “But, to finish 7-6 and be winners and be a winning football team, the first one since 2012 — for us, that’s something that we want to do, something that we want to accomplish.”
Contact Ian Kreider at firstname.lastname@example.org