The Kent State football team's sophomore sensation had the luxury
of facing two solid, yet not sensational, defenses in his first two
collegiate starts at quarterback. And he also had the best running back
in the Mid-American Conference receiving the bulk of both foe's
attention as they prepared to face the Golden Flashes' high-powered
But the scenario has changed dramatically this week.
Davis will face his sternest test to date Saturday at 7 p.m., when the
Miami of Ohio RedHawks storm Dix Stadium fresh off a stunning 24-17
upset of No. 12 ranked Virginia Tech to take on the Flashes (1-4, 1-2).
And he'll do so without senior tailback Astron Whatley, the MAC's
leading rusher, who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
Miami features the MAC's No. 1 ranked pass defense, having allowed just
109.2 yards per game through the air thus far. And guess who the
RedHawks have been zeroing in on as the man to stop on Saturday now that
Whatley's on the shelf.
Mr. Davis, for sure.
But the savvy sophomore doesn't seem to mind one bit.
"This is the kind of challenge you wake up every morning and hope for,"
said Davis, who completed 47-of-82 passes for 743 yards and seven
touchdowns, but threw five interceptions in his first two starts. "It's
a great challenge and another obstacle I have to overcome to lead this
team to a win."ll
The RedHawks (4-1, 2-1 MAC) present a highly formidable obstacle for
Davis & company.
Defensively, they feature a solid front line and one of the MAC's
premier linebackers in junior JoJuan Armour (6-foot-1, 218). Miami ranks
second in the MAC in scoring defense (17.8 ppg) and in total defense
(275.8 ypg), having contained two potentially dominating offenses the
past two weeks in wins over Army and Virginia Tech.
"Miami is very active up front and Armour is a great football player,"
said Kent State coach Jim Corrigall. "They are very athletic and very
good overall defensively."
The Flashes, coming off a 615-yard effort last week against Central
Florida, are ranked second in the MAC and 13th in the nation in total
offense (445 yards per game). So Kent State's offense vs. the Miami
defense is certainly an interesting matchup.
But Miami's offense vs. Kent State's defense is a scary pairing for Flashes' fans.
The RedHawks are piling up 31.8 points per game thanks to a well-
balanced attack that features sophomore tailback Travis Prentice (6-2,
223) and senior quarterback Sam Ricketts (6-2, 215).
Prentice ranks fourth in the MAC in rushing (102.6 ypg) and has scored
11 touchdowns, while Ricketts ranks fourth in the conference in total
offense (256.2 ypg). The RedHawks' veteran leader (16-7-1 as a starter)
has played solid and near mistake-free football, having thrown for
1,185 yards and six touchdowns compared to just two interceptions.
"They have an experienced quarterback and a very good running back
(Prentice)," said Corrigall. "They're very mentally tough on offense,
because they've moved the football well. And they'll probably come in
here thinking they can run and throw at will on us, because they've
played very well against Army and Virginia Tech."
Meanwhile, Kent State's defense has struggled.
The Flashes have forced nine turnovers and made several big plays of late, but they've also given up more than their fair share (497 yards, 42.8 points per game). Still, Corrigall doesn't plan to pull in the reigns against the RedHawks.
"On the defensive side, we're going to simplify things and execute to the best of our abilities," said Corrigall. "But just because we're simplifying doesn't mean we can't get after them ... my mindset hasn't changed on that."
Mindsets have changed in Bellaire, Davis' home town. The natives were giving their hero some heat early in the season, when he was playing second string.
But that's all changed.
"I guess I'm the talk of the town now," said Davis. "My high school coach (John Magistro) left a message saying they were updating my stats during their game, while he was trying to coach.
"But still, we've got to start winning. We wear t-shirts that say 'Kent State football, shock the nation.' And that's what I want to do. I don't just want to shock my hometown, I want to shock the nation."
Saturday's, he and the Flashes will get their chance.
Miami has dominated the series, having captured the last six meetings to
build a 35-9 edge over Kent State. Last year Miami blitzed the Flashes
in the season opener, 64-6 ... Miami finished second in the nation a
year ago in pass efficiency defense ... The RedHawks were one of a
conference-record four teams to receive votes in this week's Associated
Press football poll. Miami received 17 votes, which ranks them 35th in
the nation ... Flashes junior wide receiver Eugene Baker is ranked first
in the MAC and sixth in the nation in receptions per game (7.8), and
second in the MAC and seventh in the nation in receiving yards per game
(125.4). Davis is second in the conference and 13th in the nation in
passing efficiency (153.3). Meanwhile, despite his one carry for a 10-
yard effort last week (he was injured on the first play from scrimmage),
Whatley still ranks first in the MAC and fifth in the nation in rushing
yards per game (145.2) ... Kent State has been outscored 52-10 in the
first quarter and 65-14 in the third quarter this season, and the
Flashes are the most penalized team in the MAC (49, 453 yards) ... Miami
is a 22-point favorite, according to