By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
A tremendously tough early season schedule is starting to truly take its toll on the Kent State football team.
The Golden Flashes (1-2) will be without the services of several key performers, while others that do play will not be at 100 percent when they battle perennial Big Ten power Penn State (2-1) on Saturday afternoon in State College, Pa.
Starting sophomore nose tackle Nate Terhune was likely lost for the rest of the season after breaking his leg during the first quarter of Saturday's game at LSU. Terhune had been doing an excellent job of taking some of the heat off three-time First Team All-Mid-American Conference defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix up front.
Nix himself is struggling through issues with his back, according to Kent State head coach Paul Haynes.
"It's been sore really since the first week of the season," said Haynes. "It's muscles, one of those nagging injuries where his back just tightens up on him. He still goes in and battles like crazy. It's just something we have to continue to treat."
While Nix is expected to play at Penn State, senior strong safety Luke Wollet -- a Second Team All-MAC performer last year -- is doubtful due to injuries to his knee and shoulder. Junior Calvin Tiggle was expected to start at free safety this season, but has not played yet and is likely out two to four more weeks with a foot injury.
Injuries, along with some talented opposition, have led to a struggle for the Flashes' defense thus far in 2013. Kent State is allowing 32 points and 456 yards per game this season, and has yet to force a single turnover.
On the offensive side, senior speedster Dri Archer's status is once again uncertain this week due to an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter of the season opener against Liberty that continues to give him trouble. After sitting out game two against Bowling Green, Archer started at LSU, but left the game in the first quarter after catching a seven-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon and did not return.
"I would probably say, right now, he's doubtful unless he comes in and says, 'Hey, I want to go'," said Haynes. "That's pretty much the way it was last week. If he does that, you still have to make a judgment call on what's best for the team. So we'll see. By (today) or Wednesday, we'll make a definite decision on him. It was good to see him get out there and play (at LSU)."
Haynes does not believe Archer's injury is any worse now than it was originally, but it's causing serious problems for a player whose speed and quickness are what make him special.
"It's a nagging ankle (injury) on a sprinter. He's a great athlete that has to be able to run and when he can't, it's tough on him," said Haynes. "It has nothing to do with toughness, not wanting to (play), looking to the future (NFL) and all of those things that everyone has said.
"He's a good athlete that needs to run and he can't right now, so he's not feeling comfortable being out there. In his state of mind, he's saying I don't want to hurt the team, I want to help the team, and he feels right now that him being out there hurts the team," Haynes said.
The Flashes held starting senior left guard Pat McShane out against the Tigers due to a knee injury that he suffered early in preseason camp, although he did see action against the Falcons.
"We'll see how he is this week. Again, it's one of those judgment calls," said Haynes. "To me, if he continues to get better and feel better, you've gotta make the call. Do you want him to get back to as close to 100 percent going into MAC play, or do you try to get 20 plays out of him (at PSU) to not get him rusty I guess. That'll be a judgment call as we go through the week."
Despite the injuries, Haynes must rally the troops to prepare for a Penn State squad that's fresh off an upset loss to UCF at home.
"We will continue to go to work," said Haynes. "We've got a couple guys banged up that we need to try to get healthy for this week. We're looking forward to the challenge in Happy Valley."
According to school officials, Kent State's athletic department will receive $825,000 for its game at Penn State and $985,000 for last Saturday's game at LSU.
Former Kent Roosevelt High School star Marcus Wright is now listed on the depth chart as the backup nose tackle behind sophomore Chris Fairchild, who will take over for the injured Terhune as the starter.
Wright, a 6-foot-4, 258-pound junior, transferred to Kent State after playing one year at Findlay. He sat out the 2011 season, then did not see action a year ago.
ROOT FOR THE ZIPS? NO WAY
Kent State junior wide receiver Chris Humphrey and sophomore punter/kicker Anthony Melchiori (Aurora) were asked during Monday's press conference if they found themselves cheering for their bitter rival Akron during the closing moments of their near-win at Michigan on Saturday.
"I'll never be rooting for Akron 'til the day I die," said Humprhey. "I definitely give them some credit, but they fell short."
"You've gotta give credit where credit is due. They fought hard. But at the end of the day, it's still our rival," said Melchiori. "You like to see a MAC team compete with those big guys, but I don't think I was rooting for them."
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