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Editor's Note: Kent State's game against Miami (Ohio) at Dix Stadium was not completed by the Record-Courier's presstime Wednesday night. For a complete game story, visit www.recordpub.com.
By Allen Moff | Staff writer
Kent State's 16 seniors, part of last year's decorated squad that earned the Golden Flashes' first bowl berth in 40 years, were honored before playing the final home game of their respective careers on Wednesday night at Dix Stadium.
The four-year seniors -- which include All-MAC performers Roosevelt Nix and Luke Wollet, four-year lettermen Mark Fackler and Zack Hitchens, and two-year starter Phil Huff -- need wins in their final two games to finish reach .500 for their careers (25-25). The Flashes (2-8 1-5 MAC) hosted Miami (0-9, 0-5) on Senior Night Wednesday, then will conclude the season on Tuesday by visiting Ohio (6-3, 3-2).
After starting their KSU careers with identical 5-7 overall and 4-4 MAC records in 2010 and 2011, the last two seasons have been a roller-coaster ride for these seniors. They played key roles on the most successful team in Kent State history a year ago (11-3, 8-0) that included a MAC East Division title and trip to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala., then slipped to 2-8 overall and 1-5 in the MAC in 2013 entering Wednesday night's game.
Nix has an excellent chance to earn First-Team All-MAC honors for the fourth consecutive season at defensive tackle, while Wollet made his 37th consecutive start at strong safety for Kent State on Wednesday. Fackler (defensive end) and Huff (center) started their 25th straight game against the RedHawks.
SENIOR BOWL HOPEFULS
Nix and senior speedster Dri Archer have been named to the Senior Bowl Watch List. Last year offensive lineman Brian Winters became just the second player in Kent State history to play in the Senior Bowl, and he was later drafted in the third round by the New York Jets. He has started the past five games for the Jets at guard.
Archer moved into third place in career all-purpose yards for the Flashes when he reached 4,714 in the first quarter on Wednesday, passing former star running back Eugene Jarvis.
Kent State special teams star Anthony Melchiori made a surprising return to the field during Wednesday night's game against Miami from what was thought to be a season-ending hamstring injury.
Melchiori, a former Aurora High School star regarded as one of the nation's top punters, injured his hamstring while making a tackle on a kickoff return during the Golden Flashes' Oct. 12 game at Ball State. Days later Kent State head coach Paul Haynes said that he believed Melchiori was lost for the season.
Melchiori kicked the extra point after the Flashes scored a first-quarter touchdown against the RedHawks, and stayed in to kick off on the following play.
Melchiori entered Wednesday's contest averaging 44.5 yards per punt. Fourteen of his 35 punts ended with fair catches, and 14 were downed inside the 20-yard line.
Junior Andrew Horning, a former Stow High School star, has punted since Melchiori was injured and filled in admirably. Horning entered Wednesday's game averaging 37.4 yards per punt, with 14 of his 18 boots ending in fair catches. He also performed the punting chores against Miami.
Behind Melchiori and Horning, Kent State entered Wednesday's action ranked first in the MAC and 13th in the nation in net punting at 40.2 yards per attempt.
Melchiori also served as Kent State's kicker until he was injured, hitting 5-of-9 field goals. The Flashes have already received a verbal commitment from a kicking recruit, and hope Melchiori can return his focus to punting and kickoffs next season.
The largest crowd in Dix Stadium history watched Kent State and Miami, two nationally ranked teams, battle for first place in the MAC back in 1973. Miami defeated the Flashes 20-10 in front of 27,363 fans.
n Since the beginning of last season, Kent State is 11-0 when leading at halftime and 1-10 when trailing at the break. The Flashes are 2-0 when leading at the half in 2013.
n This year Kent State is 0-7 when the opponent scores first and 0-7 when rushing for less yards than the opponent. Miami opened the scoring on Wednesday with a 33-yard field goal.
n Six of the eight teams the Flashes have lost to are currently above .500, while Liberty -- which KSU defeated 17-10 in its season opener -- also sports a winning record at 6-4.
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier