By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Emotions were running rampant before, during and after Kent State's 24-6 Senior Night triumph over Miami Wednesday night at Dix Stadium.
Sixteen seniors who have experienced more than their fair share of ups and downs during their respective Golden Flashes careers were highly motivated to go out as winners on their home field, even though the game meant little to anyone not associated with either team.
"When you see people tearing up because it's their last home game in a Kent State uniform, it does something to you and makes you want to play harder," said Flashes star senior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix. "You know it's going to be a tough game. Coming into it, you're just thinking about how you have been here for four years. I remember my first year and it's just happened so fast.
"Even though this year hasn't really gone how we wanted it to, it's still the greatest thing that God has given a bunch of guys that you're going through the good and the bad. Just going out there knowing that you're playing for each other, it's a great feeling."
Each senior was introduced before the game and joined on the field by members of their family.
"It was really emotional before the game," said KSU senior speedster Dri Archer. "Walking out there and seeing your parents out on the field, shaking (coach Paul Haynes') hand, (director of athletics Joel Nielsen's) hand, it was really emotional for a lot of seniors. The emotions started slowing down when the game started and we started playing football."
The Flashes were able to enjoy themselves throughout the game, as they jumped out to a 7-3 lead after the first quarter then slowly pulled away as the game progressed.
"There's a lot more high fives and good jobs," said Nix. "You feel for people. The young guys feel for the older guys. I feel for Dri when he scores. He can't score at Kent State in Dix Stadium anymore. I can't get any sacks in Kent State's stadium anymore. It's about playing your hardest and doing what you can do."
Nix, Archer and fellow seniors Tyshon Goode and Luke Wollet have all etched their names among the Kent State's all-time elite at their respective positions.
Nix is the leader in career tackles for loss with 64, and needs just one sack to tie the career record (24). Archer is now third all-time in career all-purpose yards (4,789), Goode is second in career receiving yards (2,217) and Wollet is seventh with 12 career interceptions.
Most of the seniors also played huge roles on the most successful team in Flashes football history a year ago, an 11-win squad that captured the MAC East Division championship and played in KSU's first bowl game since 1972.
"They meant a lot to Kent State," said Haynes. "A lot of those guys played a big part in that success last year, and they played a big part with the leadership this year. I know it didn't end up the way they wanted, but you're gonna forget about the record. You're gonna remember what happened in the locker room, you're gonna remember certain plays, you're gonna remember the good times and the good friends. That's what they'll remember about their class."
Haynes made the following observations while watching film of Wednesday's victory over Miami:
Offense (KSU rushed for 300 yards and busted off runs of 45, 32, 21, and 20 yards): "I think the one thing when I watched the film that I noticed is our blocking. Not only by the offensive line but also by our tight ends and receivers down field, it was great. That's how big run plays happen, those guys were grinding like crazy. They were having fun. It didn't matter who was getting the ball. That's what I noticed from the film that was different from maybe four weeks ago, guys were grinding like crazy to get blocks down field, and big things were happening."
Defense (KSU held the RedHawks to 176 total yards):"The guys played hard. We've still gotta work on the fundamentals of tackling, but we were a lot better at getting off blocks. Even the plays that we gave up we can fix. They got a big pass play just because of bad eye control when (the quarterback) started scrambling around. When they got in the red zone we either held them to field goals or stopped them.
Special Teams: (Haynes called a botched fake punt attempt early in the first quarter "the worst fake in the history of college football): "I was pleased with the special teams, aside from that awful fake punt. Our coverage unit was better, our kickoff team was better. We still had some opportunities in our kickoff return to get bigger plays. We know they're gonna pooch it, we just need to do a better job of executing."
Star sophomore punter/kicker Anthony Melchiori (Aurora) returned to action for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter of the Flashes' Oct. 12 game at Ball State.
Melchiori did not punt, but he booted all three extra points and a 23-yard field goal. He also handled kickoffs, with three of five resulting in touchbacks.
"It was good to have Anthony back out there kicking for us," said Haynes, who originally believed Melchiori was lost for the season.
Melchiori is an exceptional athlete for a kicker who injured his hamstring while making a touchdown-saving tackle on Ball State's kickoff returner, blasting him out of bounds. Haynes made sure Melchiori wouldn't attempt to make any tackles on Wednesday.
"He had one instruction, that was to kick it, then jog to the sideline and get off the field," said Haynes. "I made him promise me that he'd jog to the sideline."
REARDON'S ANKLE OK
Redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon limped off the field late in the game after suffering an ankle injury. He sprained the same ankle against Ball State, and missed a game before returning to action on Oct. 26 against Buffalo.
"My ankle's feeling fine," said Reardon. "It still bothers me, sprained ankles just linger, but it's been feeling good. It feels good today."
The Flashes (3-8, 2-5) will have less than a week to prepare for their season finale at Ohio (6-4, 3-3) on Tuesday.
"It'll be a short week to prepare, which will be good," said Haynes. "Most of everything we're gonna do we already have in, it's just a matter of preparing like crazy and getting ready for OU. Sometimes I think (the short week) is good coaching-wise cause you can't put in a bunch. The more time you have as coaches the more crap you come up with, like that fake punt."
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier