If you can, or if you care to,

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

If you can, or if you care to, you'll then begin to realize how it felt to be a member of the Kent State football program on Saturday afternoon as it endured an excruciatingly painful 45-16 beating at the hands of arch-rival Akron before a Homecoming crowd of 10,139 at Dix Stadium.

"We just got beat," said a somber Kent coach Dean Pees, whose Flashes fell behind 24-3 by halftime thanks to a barrage of mistakes and bad breaks and never recovered. "It's disappointing. I've never been with a team that's lost six games in a row as a player or a coach. I've never been through anything like this."

Pees and his players looked as if they'd lost a family member afterward. And in a sense, they did.

Senior wide receiver Eugene Baker suffered a broken collarbone while trying to make a catch in the end zone in the first quarter and is out for the year. He was one of nearly a dozen players, including eight starters, that either didn't dress or failed to complete Saturday's game for various reasons.

"I can't put it in words," said quarterback Jose Davis, who himself was benched early in the third quarter. "It's getting bad."

In hindsight, the Flashes (0-6, 0-3 MAC) should have stayed in bed Saturday morning.

The Zips (3-2, 2-1) opened up a quick 7-0 lead when running back Greg Lomax (16 carries, 100 yards) raced almost untouched 14 yards into the end zone to complete a 76-yard drive.

Kent threatened to retaliate immediately, driving to the Akron 14-yard line where it faced a third-and-12. But Baker was injured when he landed awkwardly on the next play, and the Flashes had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Dave Pavich that cut the lead to 7-3.

After Baker's break, the Flashes broke down.

Dwight Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the Kent 36. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty set up a 19-yard touchdown pass from James Washington to tight end Tim Ritley that put the Zips on top 14-3.

The Flashes offense, which was forced to feature three first-year wide receivers and a freshman running back without Baker, bogged down without its go-to guy. Kent managed just 64 yards of total offense in the first half.

"We were disappointed, but we weren't deflated (without Baker)," said Pees. "I didn't hear anyone say we couldn't win without Baker."

Meanwhile, Akron used a fake punt to put the finishing touches on the Flashes in the second quarter. The Zips snapped the ball to left upback Jon Eaton, who waited for everyone to go right before taking off in the opposite direction for a 42-yard touchdown.

"We stood there on the sideline and called the fake," said Pees. "We just don't use our heads and we don't make the tackle."

Any thoughts of a dramatic second-half comeback ala '97 were put to rest when Akron strong safety Andre McCray stepped in front of a Davis pass and raced a school-record 99 yards for a touchdown in the opening minutes of the third quarter.

"I saw the receiver go in motion and I figured that play was coming," said McCray. "He put the ball in a good spot for me."

Davis (6-of-21, 63 yards) was benched at that point because Pees didn't believe he tried hard enough to catch McCray.

"I'm not going to play anyone who quits," said Pees. "I don't care if you have to run to Ravenna. And I don't care who you are, either."

"I ran 80 yards after that guy," said Davis. "I've got my point of view and (Pees) has his ... he did what he thought he had to do."

Zach Williams took over at quarterback, but DeMarlo Rozier took over the offense. The freshman tailback from Canton McKinley rushed for two second-half touchdowns, the first two of his career, and became the first Kent back to break the 100-yard barrier in '98 (38 carries, 119 yards).

Still, he couldn't match an Akron offense that churned out 301 yards on

the ground.

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