By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Football coaches and players are typically not ones to make up excuses when they fail, like Kent State did last Saturday at South Alabama.
But facts aren't excuses.
It's a fact that the Golden Flashes played their fifth road game in the past six weeks last Saturday, going 1-5 in that span. It's also a fact that they didn't play very well, got beat soundly by the 3-3 Jaguars, and now sit at 2-6 needing to close the season with four straight wins just to earn bowl eligibility.
Facts are facts, and KSU head coach Paul Haynes wasn't denying any of them during his weekly press conference on Monday.
"Nobody wants to be 2-6," said Haynes. "We're coming off a disappointing loss to South Alabama on the road and we talked about it as coaches, and I'm sure the players feel the same way, it wasn't our best performance by any means. We knew we had a chance to win that game, but we didn't perform."
How much of that sub-par performance can be chalked up to fatigue?
"I don't sugarcoat anything. It's been tough playing five out of six weeks on the road," said Haynes. "I just look at our energy level (at South Alabama) and it wasn't the same."
"That's when you start looking at it, that this is tough on (the players). Remember, these guys still have to go to school too," Haynes said. "We've been back at 4, back at 3, back at 1 a.m., then they get right back and go to study table, go to class, go to practice. They're not gonna use it as an excuse, but it has been tough.
"When you go to bed check (the night before a game) and guys are already asleep, it tells you the tale."
At this point Haynes must have sensed he was slipping into excuse territory.
"But we've still gotta get 'em ready to go," said Haynes. "I put that on me and the coaches."
Rallying the troops this week shouldn't be that difficult, as the Flashes (2-6, 1-3 MAC) return home for the first time since Oct. 5 and get back into MAC play against conference unbeaten Buffalo (5-2, 3-0).
"It's been a tough few weeks, but no excuses," said senior offensive guard Pat McShane. "We've just gotta keep preparing, keep working hard. We'll be ready for Buffalo."
There's no excuse for not being ready for a must-win game against the Bulls.
"We'll lick our wounds and we'll be ready to roll," said Haynes. "We'll go out there and fight like crazy. That's all we know how to do."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon (ankle), senior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix (back), sophomore punter/kicker Anthony Melchiori (hamstring) and junior cornerback Dylan Farrington (concussion) all sat out Saturday's game at South Alabama due to injuries.
The news on Monday was good for every player except for Melchiori, a former Aurora High School star who was enjoying another stellar season as the Flashes' punter.
"I think Melch's done for the year," said Haynes. "I think he pulled it enough that I don't think he's gonna be back this year."
Reardon actually dressed for last Saturday's game and could have been used in an emergency situation.
"He felt better every day last week," said Haynes. "I look for him to be back in there, but it depends on how he feels. We'll see how he does through the week."
Nix had played despite suffering from a herniated disc in his back for most of the season, but finally could not go last week.
"Rosie feels better, but it's something we've gotta be careful with during the week cause one little deal and he's back to where he was," said Haynes.
Farrington is "day to day" with the concussion.
THINKING OF DON JAMES
Haynes chatted about Don James, the head coach of Kent State's 1972 MAC championship football team who died on Sunday in Seattle from the effects of pancreatic cancer at the age of 80, before and after Monday's press conference.
Haynes never worked directly with James, but he worked closely with Jim Heacock at Ohio State. Heacock was the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator when Haynes was the secondary coach from 2005-10, then they were co-defensive coordinators in 2011.
Heacock was the defensive line coach at Washington under James from 1983-87, and was shocked when he first saw the Buckeyes' methods for game preparation under then-head coach Jim Tressel.
"(Heacock) sees (the OSU players) on Friday playing baseball indoors the day before a game, and he's sitting there going crazy cause he's been used to Don James with everybody being quiet, everybody sitting," Haynes smiled.
Haynes then talked about Nick Saban (Alabama) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri), who played under James at Kent State, then went on to become brilliant head coaches themselves.
"They keep bringing up his name all the time. That's how you know you've impacted people, when they keep bringing your name up 20, 30 years later," said Haynes. "I never knew (James), but I know he had a big influence on those guys for the rest of their lives."
Haynes and the Flashes will honor James during Saturday's game.
Former Kent Roosevelt High School star Marcus Wright received extensive playing time with Nix sidelined last Saturday against the Jaguars and produced his first two collegiate sacks.
"He's gonna be a good player for us," said Haynes. "He's playing a little bit before his time I think, but he's gotten in there and has confidence in himself and his ability and confidence in his teammates. He made some plays for us that were big plays that we needed."
QUIET DAY FOR DURHAM
Junior running back Trayion Durham, Kent State's leading rusher, managed just eight yards on five carries at South Alabama. He was stuffed on back-to-back plays on the second series of the game, when the Flashes faced third-and-2 and fourth-and-2, then carried the ball just once after that.
"He's gotta be strong at the times that we need him to be strong," said Haynes. "We've got a lot of good running backs."
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier