Especially tough loss to take

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DeKALB, Ill. Despite a stellar effort from an injury-plagued defense, the Kent State football team suffered its second consecutive tough road loss to a Mid-American Conference foe on Saturday. Dan Sheldon scored the games only touchdown on a school-record 90-yard punt return, which proved to be the difference as Northern Illinois (2-3, 1-0 MAC) held on to earn a 13-6 triumph over the Golden Flashes (2-3, 0-2) before 16,302 fans at Huskie Stadium. Despite playing without four injured starters on defense, Kent State held the Huskies to 300 total yards. But problems on offense and special teams plagued the Flashes for the second straight week. (Both losses) are gut-wrenching, said KSU coach Dean Pees, whose squad fell 27-20 at Miami last week. We have some guys who need to see rewards for all the hard work theyve put in. Defensively, this is the best game weve played in a while. We fought hard, but just came up a little short. Northern Illinois contained Flashes superstar sophomore quarterback Joshua Cribbs, who came into the game averaging 306 yards per game in total offense but was limited to 81 yards rushing on 13 carries and completed 14-of-27 passes for just 109 yards and one interception. We just couldnt spring him loose, said Pees. We had some chances and just didnt execute for whatever reason. Kent State sophomore tailback Eddie Beccles managed to shake loose, rushing for a career-high 109 yards on 16 carries including 100 yards on nine attempts in the first half alone. With the Flashes trailing 10-0 in the second quarter following Sheldons punt return for a score, Beccles raced 68 yards to the NIU 12-yard line. But a sack forced Kent State to settle for a 37-yard field goal by former Crestwood star Travis Mayle, cutting the deficit to 10-3. Settling for three, that was a little demoralizing, said Pees. The Flashes had to settle for another Mayle field goal, this one from 28 yards away, after a motion call on fourth-and-one from inside the Northern Illinois 10 forced Pees to take the sure three points. After Mayle missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt, breaking a string of six straight successful kicks, the Huskies tacked on a 34-yard field goal by Steve Azar set up by a Cribbs interception that increased the lead to 13-6 with 2:22 remaining. Cribbs led his team to the NIU 20-yard line on Kent States next possession, but his pass attempt on fourth-and-three fell incomplete. Our defense played outstanding, said coach Joe Novak, whose Huskies fell 44-34 in Kent last season. We played with more discipline and kept it simple. We tackled better, and Cribbs is hard to tackle. Northern Illinois tailback Michael Turner, who rushed for 282 yards and three touchdowns in last weeks loss to Western Illinois, piled up 203 yards on 40 attempts against Kent State. But his longest gain was 18 yards, and the Huskies produced just 60 passing yards. I cant say I expected a low-scoring game, said Pees. It was between two evenly matched teams, and could have gone either way. To hold them to 13 points ... FLASHES NOTEBOOK Kent State senior cornerback Jacon Averys string of 26 consecutive starts was snapped due to an ankle injury. Avery did not make the trip to DeKalb. ... Flashes freshman linebacker Jon Sessler recovered a fumble on his first collegiate play. ... KSU sophomore linebacker Eric Mahl notched a team-high 11 tackles and forced a fumble despite playing on an injured ankle. ... The Flashes will host MAC East Division leader Marshall next Saturday.

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