By Allen Moff | Staff writer
Paul Haynes insists that yards allowed by his Kent State defense isn't a statistic that keeps him up at night.
For the sake of Haynes and everyone around him, that's a good thing.
Because the Golden Flashes would have themselves one tired, grumpy coach if Haynes spent much time dwelling on the 698 yards his defense surrendered in last Saturday's loss to Northern Illinois, or the huge numbers Ball State's high-octane passing game is perfectly capable of putting up in this Saturday's matchup in Muncie.
"Ball State has a high-powered offense, and when you play against offenses that are high-powered, you don't worry about the yardage," said Haynes. "I know you look at the stats and you say, 'Man, they had a lot of yards,' but that's the one thing you don't focus on. The thing that you focus on is you don't give up big plays and you keep them out of the end zone."
A glance at some numbers from last week's loss to Northern Illinois proves Haynes' point.
The Flashes gave up 38 points to the Huskies, which is a lot, but not that many considering the 698 total yards NIU collected. Northern Illinois was forced to run 10 or more plays on five of its six scoring drives, and the one short touchdown drive (6 plays) ended with a 53-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter that infuriated Haynes more than anything else that happened that day.
"That was the biggest thing we went into the game saying we couldn't do, give them big plays, and we gave them one on a blown coverage which shouldn't have happened," said Haynes.
The Flashes will enter Saturday's contest with a similar plan to make Cardinals star senior quarterback Keith Wenning earn his points by executing a series of plays effectively, not just one big one.
"Teams are too good to give them stuff," said Haynes. "We've gotta play with more discipline in certain situations and not just give them plays, because they're good enough to get plays on their own. You can realistically go through a game and have zero missed assignments. Those are the things that we need to do against very good football teams, which we are facing."
Ball State is indeed very good, especially on the offensive end. Last week, the Cardinals hung 48 points on a Virginia defense that had stifled BYU and Pittsburgh earlier in the year, increasing their yearly averages to 41.3 points and 478 yards per game, including 337.5 per contest through the air.
"Wenning does a good job of getting it to his playmakers, which he has a lot of playmakers to get the ball to," said Haynes. "I think he does a great job of just controlling the ball, getting the ball out early. They'll throw a lot of quick passes, but it doesn't mean that they're short passes. They'll throw the ball up on fades, and those guys do a good job of going and getting them. And they don't give up a lot of sacks.
"They're not super complex, but they're fast-paced. You watch a lot of (their opponents) running on and off (the field), it's kind of crazy, But that kind of makes you have to be more simple on defense, 'cause you can't change a call. It forces you to be more simple."
The Flashes will face an uptempo, high-octane offense centered around a star quarterback for the second straight week. But while Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch is equally adept at running and passing, Wenning is a pure passer. Northern Illinois also had major success rushing 244-pound running back Cameron Stingily up the gut of a banged-up KSU defense, but the Cardinals don't seem to have the type of personnel to repeat that strategy this week.
"Ball State's totally different than Northern Illinois. They are a high-powered offense, but they are not a (physical running team)," said Haynes. "They may try to put it in, but I doubt it 'cause I think that they're gonna stick to who they are. But to me, they're the same type of team in that the No. 1 thing is to keep them out of the end zone, not to look up at the scoreboard and see how many yards they have because they can put up yards. We've just gotta keep them out of the end zone."
Haynes is hoping a ball-control offense and excellent punting by sophomore star Anthony Melchiori (Aurora) will lend a much-needed hand to his defense as it tries to slow down one of the top passing offenses in the country.
"It's not about outscoring them. I don't like to get into shootouts. We've gotta play good defense, and playing good defense involves the offense," said Haynes. "You can't have three-and-outs, you've gotta keep the ball moving, and when you get in the red zone you've gotta put points on the board. That's all part of playing good defense."
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier