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By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Dri Archer and the Kent State football powers-that-be have a difficult decision to make this week.
Archer, the Golden Flashes' senior speedster, who scored a school-record 23 touchdowns a year ago, missed the team's Mid-American Conference season-opening loss to Bowling Green on Saturday after suffering an ankle injury in the 2013 season opener against Liberty on Aug. 29.
Archer's ankle is not broken or fractured, and his condition is improving by the day. But he'll still likely not be at 100 percent by Saturday, when Kent State (1-1) visits perennial national powerhouse LSU (2-0).
So do the Flashes keep Archer on the sideline for the next two games (at LSU, at Penn State) and attempt to get him 100 percent healthy for their next MAC game at Western Michigan on Sept. 28? Or do they try to get him back on the field as soon as possible?
That's the question Archer, Flashes head coach Paul Haynes and the KSU medical staff will be kicking around in their minds this week as the team prepares to take on the No. 9 Tigers on Saturday.
Monday afternoon, when Haynes conducted his weekly press conference, he had no answer.
"I hate to keep saying day-to-day, but it's gonna be a day-to-day thing for him," said Haynes. "We'll start off a little bit slow (in practice this week), (working) a little bit (in individual drills). We'll go with a little bit more team stuff as the week goes on, and then see how it is."
Archer was "day-to-day" last week as well, leading up to the Bowling Green contest, but on game day it was determined that he simply couldn't go.
"When you're a runner and you feel a little bit limited in running it's kind of a mental thing and also a physical thing," said Haynes. "Plus, if you go out there at 70 percent and you injure it some more, now we're without you for six to eight weeks. So those are all the things that you look at."
"Of course he wants to be out there, we all want him out there, but you've gotta sit there and do what's best for him and what's best for the team," Haynes said.
Haynes had a similar decision to make last week with senior left guard Pat McShane, one of only two returning starters on Kent State's offensive line, who missed the season opener due to a knee injury he sustained during practice on Aug. 8. McShane did make it back for 22 plays against the Falcons, even though he was not at 100 percent.
The difference between a lineman and a speedster like Archer is that the speed player needs his wheels at full strength to be effective. Without his ability to sprint, cut and explode, Archer is just another guy on the field at a mere 5-foot-8, 175 pounds.
In addition, McShane was brought back for a conference game. Kent State's next two contests are against non-league foes that annually contend for titles in two of the nation's top conferences.
"Our goal hasn't changed. We still want to win the MAC," said Haynes. "That's the thing you've gotta sit there as a coach and a coaching staff and say, do we take chances or can you get him 100 percent for the rest of the season? It's a long season, and when you deal with things like knees and ankles, those are nagging injuries. Sometimes they don't get any better until you relax them or rest them."
McShane made it through 22 plays against Bowling Green, and while he did not re-injure the knee, he certainly had to play through some pain. McShane may be held out against LSU as well.
"He was pretty sore (Sunday), a little bit swollen up," said Haynes. "We've just gotta wait and see how he feels. I know this, he's gonna want to play. We had to pull him out of the game on Saturday. It'll be a decision that we'll monitor during the week."
Perhaps the decision will be made for Archer, and his gimpy ankle simply won't allow him to play at LSU. But if the injury continues to improve over the course of the week, a tough call will have to be made that could have a lasting effect on the 2013 campaign -- in a positive or negative way.
"Dri's gonna try to go, try to do everything he possibly can to get back on the field. He knows it's important for this team for him to be out there, and it's important for him to be out there," said Haynes. "But coming off this (non-league) road trip, we've gotta be ready to roll to win the MAC and you want (Archer and McShane) healthy. It's kind of a fine line as we sit there and continue these next two weeks, how we assess those guys and what we do with those guys."
ADJUSTMENTS TO HALFTIME
Kent State has been outscored 17-0 in the third quarter of its first two games this season. The Falcons took control of Saturday's game with a 10-0 spurt in the third stanza.
"You always analyze everything a little bit more after a loss than you do after a win as a coach," said Haynes. "We're looking at what we're doing at halftime to make sure we're doing the right things to get them ready to come out and perform like they did in the first half. I think it's just something that you've gotta continue to stress about finishing the game. We can handle anything that anyone gives us. We prepare well for it. It still comes down to executing. It's not the big things, it's just the little things you've gotta continue to do down after down. If we maintain our focus on the little things and discipline, the big things will happen for us."
FALCONS TOUGH ON TRAYION
Bowling Green stopped Flashes junior running back Trayion Durham in his tracks for the second straight year. After limiting Kent State's 238-pound bruiser back to 20 yards on 10 carries in last season's matchup, Durham was held to 24 yards on 11 carries last Saturday.
For the season, Durham has rushed 32 times for 116 yards (3.6 ypc) and one score. Last year, he piled up 1,346 yards rushing and 14 TDs, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
"Trayion right now is that guy that opponents know exactly where he is (every play)," said Haynes. "I think he's still getting keyed on, especially when you don't have a guy like Dri out there. Now the focus is on Trayion. I think that's why guys like (wide receivers Chris) Humphrey and Tyshon (Goode) are having better games, because teams are loading the box and making sure they get three or four hats on (Durham) to get him down."
PENN STATE KICKOFF ANNOUNCED
Kent State's game at Penn State on Sept. 21 will kickoff at 3:30 p.m., and be televised on the Big Ten Network. Saturday's battle at LSU will kickoff at 7 p.m., and be broadcast on ESPNU.
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier