Simply running plays have done the trick of

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Simply running plays have done the trick of late.

Marshall and Bowling Green steamrolled the Golden Flashes' defense _ a unit utterly decimated by injuries _ for 757 yards on the ground alone in the past two weeks, paving the way for a pair of one-sided wins that has the Kent coaching staff searching for solutions.

"Marshall tried to spread the field in the first half, and we were able to employ some junk defenses and disguise some things and play them tough," said coach Dean Pees, whose Flashes (0-8, 0-5 MAC) will host Western Michigan (4-4, 2-3) Saturday at 2 p.m. "But in the second half they just said we're bigger and we're more experienced and we're going to take it to you, and that's what they did.

"Then Bowling Green came out in two tight ends last week from the start and just pounded it at us all day."

Pees hasn't simply taken these beatings in stride.

He's switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense to get as many healthy players on the field as possible. He's used every fit body he has at his disposal, and even played some hobbled players that he probably shouldn't have.

But nothing's worked. And further options are limited.

"Now I believe the season's starting to take its toll on our freshmen," said Pees. "These guys weren't physically ready to come in and play 70 snaps a game at this level, but they've had to and now they just aren't moving as well. They were supposed to be backups, guys that came in and gave the starters a break. But our backups are our starters.

"Everyone knows we're banged up, and personnel-wise we just can't hold up in some ways. But we still have to make teams work more for their points. We have to tackle and not let short runs turn into 50-yard gains ... that's what killed us (against Bowling Green). Our tackling was absolutely terrible."

Things won't get any easier this week for the Flashes, who will face a matchup scarier than any costume you'll see in downtown Kent when they lineup their MAC-worst defense (457 yards surrendered per game) against the Broncos' conference-best offense (451.9 ypg) on Saturday.

"Western Michigan has a quarterback (junior Tim Lester) that can throw and a nice tailback (junior Darnell Fields)," said Pees. "Their offense is extremely multiple ... they come out in 100 different sets and throw everything at you."

One thing the Broncos haven't done is simply try to run the ball down an opponent's throat, which is good news for the Flashes.

"That's not their style. And since they have the No. 1 offense (in the MAC), it would be hard to tell their kids to change," said Pees. "They do a lot of things, and I have a feeling we'll get all of it."

The Broncos' strength is the Flashes' most glaring weakness, according to Pees.

"Western Michigan has tremendous team speed," said Pees. "Speed is the key to making turnovers on defense, because speed means better breaks and harder collisions which create turnovers."

The Flashes have forced a mere six turnovers thus far in 1998.

"We have to bring more speed into this program on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense," said Pees. "We're doing everything we can to recruit speed."

Notes

Western Michigan leads the series 29-17-1 and has won nine in a row over

Kent. The Broncos have averaged over 59 points per game in the last

three meetings. ... Western Michigan could easily be in the hunt for the

West Division title if not for a pair of two-point losses to MAC foes

Central Michigan and Ohio. ... The Flashes' injury list continues to

expand at an alarming rate. Senior offensive guard Dennis Glasby injured

his knee against Bowling Green and is out for the season. He will be

replaced by freshman Brian Hallett. Also among the walking wounded are starters Brad Hartman (DL), Matt Rayl (LB) and Geoff Betts on defense. All are questionable for Saturday's game. ... WMU's Lester leads the MAC in passing yards (302.8 ypg) and total offense (295.8), while Fields is fourth in rushing yards (85.9) and junior split end Steve Neal leads the conference in receiving (116.1 ypg). ... Kent junior quarterback Jose Davis is fourth in the MAC in passing yards (227.4) and total offense (236.9), and freshman Jurron Kelly is third in punt returns (12.7 ypr). ... The Flashes offense (379 yards last week) is capable of putting some points on the board against the Broncos, who are allowing over 400 yards and nearly 30 points per game. ... Western Michigan is a 16-point favorite according to oddsmakers.

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