Kent State is currently riding a two-game losing streak. Both games have been decided by a touchdown each. On Oct. 12, the Flashes led the Mid-American Conference East. Now they are in fourth.
1. Stopping the run will go along way in securing a win against Toledo.
Through eight games, the Flashes are giving up 250 rushing yards per game. In their five losses this season, they have allowed 300 rushing yards per game. They have allowed a MAC-worst 2,005 rushing yards so far this season.
“The number one thing is just the fundamental skill of tackling,” Lewis said. “Also, doing a better job of when the first defender gets there getting the ball carrier on the ground.
Toledo’s rushing offense is ranked first in the MAC. They average 245 yards per game on 5.4 yards per carry with 18 touchdowns.
“We also need to do a better job of some of the pre snap alignments to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Lewis said. “That communication is key because it ensures that as shifts and motions occur we’re all playing the same call the way that we need to.”
Size on the line has been a problem all season. The Flashes have three players on their roster listed at 300 pounds or more.
“There’s no magic sauce to how we’re going to stop that,” Lewis said. “I truly believe that when it comes to being tough and being hard-nosed part of that is that we’re committed to our scheme, and that we just need to get back to our scheme. We need to continue to grow and develop, and that’s going to take time.”
2. Finish close games.
The Flashes are 1-2 in games decided by one possession this season.
“When you’re coming up one possession short against Ohio and Miami with the opportunities that are there, you kind of rack your brain as a coach to make sure you’re putting guys in the best position to be successful,” Lewis said. “I’m extremely confident in our team, and the work we’re putting in.”
3. Receivers have to limit drops for the offense to keep pace with Toledo.
Over the last two weeks, senior receiver Mike Carrigan dropped several passes that would have likely led to touchdowns. Last week, he had two in a 23-16 loss to Miami. The week before, he had a drop that would have likely tied the game midway through the third quarter.
Coach Sean Lewis downplayed the drops after both losses.
“The drops are something that players just have to deal with,” Lewis said in his weekly press conference on Oct. 28. “We need to navigate that as coaches as well. It’s kind of like a shooter in basketball to where they have to get to the foul line to see a few shots go in to get your confidence back. Mike’s a confident kid.”
4. Joachim Bangda’s health will be important to the Kent State run game.
Kent State averaged three yards per rush in the loss to Miami. Bangda’s hamstring injury kept him out again.
“It’s a matter of health,” Lewis said. “The health of both the running backs and offensive line. It’s also about making the proper reads and proper decisions,”
Junior running back Jo-El Shaw finished with minus-11 yards on four carries and a goal line fumble that would have cut the Miami lead to 16-13 midway through the third quarter.
“With Jo-El it’s been a lot of different things that we’ll continue to work through together to set him up for success in life more so than anything else at this point in time,” Lewis said.
Shaw is not currently listed on the official roster because of an undisclosed reason.
Since a career-day against Akron, senior running back Will Matthews is averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 29 carries.
5. The defense will have to prepare well for multiple quarterbacks.
Toledo played its third-string quarterback junior Eli Peters in a 37-34 overtime win against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 26. He finished 9 of 18 for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s a situation we’ve been in before with Bowling Green where we had to prepare for more than one quarterback,” Lewis said. “The one thing that you can bank on is that coach Candle and his staff are great offensive minds. They can really shape the offensive scheme to the skillset of whoever is playing quarterback.”
Kickoff is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Glass Bowl Stadium.
“We put ourselves behind the top teams in the East, but there’s still opportunities for us,” Lewis said. “I’m excited for us and the direction were going.”
Contact Ian Kreider at firstname.lastname@example.org