Kent State opened its football season with three of five games against the Power 5 programs. Basically, schedule – at best – a 2-3 record at the start of the season.
That exact record came true when the Flashes opened season 2-3 with wins that hit FCS Kennesaw State in overtime and the basement resident of the Mid-American Conference, Bowling Green.
The Flashes opened Mid-American Conference play with a 2-0 record against the two worst teams in the conference: Bowling Green and Akron. 88-23 passed them.
After the victory at Akron, they dropped three consecutive games of possession one to put them at 3-6, a loss of distance from the fall from the cup contest. On the night of November 14, it seemed that a fourth consecutive loss, which would abandon them from the bowl contest, was very likely.
Trailing, 27-6 with 7:39 left against Buffalo, the Kent State seasonal obituary had been almost completely written.
It would be the same conversation as last season’s 2-10 final – close but not entirely.
In 2018, Kent State had four loss of possession of a 17-point combo. The 2019 season seemed to get similar results, given that the three consecutive losses of Flash leading to Buffalo were of only one possession.
Drops from major receivers Mike Carrigan and Isaiah McKoy proved costly during the losing streak. The two combined the fall of four passes that would likely have led to touchdowns during the three game losing streak.
This has changed against Buffalo.
McKoy didn’t play due to a coach’s decision, but in his absence Carrigan played well, taking seven passes for 43 yards and one touchdown. He took the touchdown of the 4th and goal, and the Flashes pulled out a 30-27 return win that changes season over Buffalo.
Kent State racked up 177 yards in attack in the last quarter on the road for a 30-27 win and the biggest FBS return in the fourth quarter of the season.
“We believe,” said Lewis after the win. “This is no longer the old Kent State.”
The word has become a common theme among players and coaches in the last four games of the season.
Lewis told people close to the team that Flash would not lose again after beating Buffalo.
He was right.
Following that victory over the Bulls, the Flashes have rocked four straight wins, with their final win of the season hitting Utah State in the first ever state of Kent win.
This belief spread throughout the team, but was most evident in the quarterback position.
Lewis’ confidence in junior quarterback Dustin Crum grew every week. Lewis kept the discussion of beliefs vague, only talking about the team’s success and his confidence in them.
Lewis’ first public comments on the belief came in the seventh week after the 45-38 loss of Flash in Ohio, their first loss of possession of the season, particularly on his quarterback.
“There is a reason for this [Crum] gained the opportunity to start, “said Lewis after the loss.” He really handled all the critical situations we put him in. We told him there wasn’t a short leash and if he had taken over [the starting job] then it would have been his. He did it and earned the respect of the team. “
After Crum’s four touchdown passes in defeat, the infraction began to throw more ball onto the field.
In two games from the conference before Ohio, Crum averaged 8.7 yards per pass attempt. After Ohio, he averages 9.9 yards per shot. He has averaged over 10 yards per attempt in three of his last four games.
Lewis and Crum said they had just committed the crime, but they clearly adapted the plan when Crum’s ability to throw the ball onto the field became more evident.
Despite throwing the ball more on the pitch, Crum led the MAC as a percentage of completion, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes as he cast a two-interception low conference. His 20 passing touchdowns have been the most for a Kentback quarterback since 1997.
Crum’s game did not result in a losing streak in the three games. He averages over 250 yards per game and has launched seven touchdowns.
Poor defense from running has become the common theme throughout the losing streak. The opposing teams scored nine touchdowns and averaged 269 quick yards per game out of 46 carry per game over three games.
Crum and the defense of the race showed up in the biggest game of the year in the Kent State first appearance since 2012. He passed the Utah NFL ready quarterback Utah Love Jordan, while the defense of the race played quite well to win. They kept the Aggies offense under five meters per carry, allowing two dashing touchdowns in a 51-41 win.
The victory created a new password for Lewis – trials.
Flash shows that they can be a winning team under Lewis.
“Two years ago, we asked high school coaches, recruits and current players for confidence because we didn’t really have any evidence [that it would work]”Lewis said on the January 7 Call to MACtion podcast.” To have the success we had at the end of the season, we now have the evidence that we can indicate and say that we have gone from 2 to 10 throwing champions. We did some unprecedented things in the state of Kent in a short period of time, which gave us some momentum for when we reached the recruiting track in a couple of days. “
Fluke or not, the 2019 season will determine the direction of Kent State football until Lewis chooses to stay in Portage County.
Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected]