By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Kent State's vaunted ground attack has been virtually grounded thus far in 2013.
After producing a pair of 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in school history and averaging nearly 226 yards rushing per game a year ago, the Golden Flashes football team has struggled to run the ball effectively this season. The numbers have tumbled to 121 yards rushing per game this year, while the yards per carry is down from 5.4 a year ago to 3.3 in 2013.
There are several legitimate reasons for KSU's lack of effectiveness in running the football.
n 1. The Flashes lost three starting offensive linemen from a year ago, including the left side of the line -- tackle Brian Winters and guard Josh Kline, both of whom are currently playing in the NFL. Winters was drafted in the third round by the New York Jets, while Kline was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots and is currently a member of their practice squad.
In addition, one of the two starters returning -- senior Pat McShane -- has played only part of one game due to a knee injury suffered early in preseason camp.
Redshirt freshman Reno Reda has served at KSU's "utility man" on the offensive line, filling in at several positions, while true freshman Wayne Scott has taken snaps each game at left guard.
"Once Pat gets back, we'll solidify a group of five or six that we can kind of settle on, then just move forward," said Haynes. "But I think those guys are coming together as a group."
n 2. Speaking of injuries, senior speedster Dri Archer -- one of the 1,000-yard rushers from a year ago, along with junior Trayion Durham -- injured his ankle in the first quarter of the season opener and is still trying to recover. After rushing for 1,482 yards a year ago, Archer has rushed three times for 10 yards this season.
n 3. Without the threat of Archer going the distance every time he touches the ball, and with a redshirt freshman starting at quarterback in Colin Reardon, teams have been able to gang up on the 238-pound hammer Durham. With defenses constantly keying on him, Durham has managed just 152 yards and one touchdown this season, averaging three yards per carry.
But Haynes believes better days are ahead for Durham.
"A lot of people just worry about the touches, but I think he's playing great football right now," said Haynes. "He's blocking well, he has a great attitude, those are the things that people don't see. I think he's having a great season right now. He's only going to continue to get better, and his yards will come."
n 4. Kent State has also faced some stiff competition. After rushing for a respectable 167 yards against a Liberty unit that led its conference in rush defense a year ago, the Flashes faced a pair of stout rushing defenses in Bowling Green and LSU -- and struggled. Reardon has the team's most rushing yards in the past two games combined, carrying 20 times for 68 yards.
Kent State has also trailed heading into the fourth quarter of every game thus far, forcing Reardon to throw the ball more late in the game.
"I think it's kind of hard to judge (our rushing attack) right now because in every one of our games we haven't been that far ahead or we've been behind," said Haynes. "It's not a true measure on us establishing the run game. When you're down 21-0 (at LSU) right off the bat, how much can you run trying to get back into the game? But when we do run the football, it's not getting stuffed all the time. If we don't get behind, we can judge it a little better."
Despite the struggles on paper, Haynes remains confident that KSU's running game is improving and will eventually break loose.
"I think when you play tough teams and good defensive teams, which we have played three good defensive teams, and you were able to move the football, you're not giving up a bunch of sacks and you're running the ball. Those are the things I look at," said Haynes. "If we continue to improve in the next few weeks, you'll see some results."
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