Call it a weak portion of their schedule. Call it a positive sign for 2012. Heck, maybe they think they have a shot at it this year. But after starting 1-6, Kent State is now on a three-game winning streak, the latest a 35-3 dismantling of their neighboring county rivals for the Wagon Wheel trophy.
The turnaround is purely because of their offense. In their first seven games they totaled 75 points (33 of those coming against South Alabama). In their three-game winning streak against BGSU, CMU and Akron, they've went off for 86 points.
I'm trying to find out what the difference has been, but it seems that Spencer Keith has undergone what you'd call a transformation:
Keith, first 7 games: 45.8% completion, 674 yards, 3 TD, 7 INT, -44 rushing yards
Keith, last 3 games: 62.9% completion, 575 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT, 81 rushing yards
Keith was benched after one series against NIU, which consisted of an incompetion and an interception. He got the job back against Miami despite so-so numbers, but once he played Bowling Green he's received much better protection from his line (only two sacks in the last three games — both by Akron yesterday) and have been able to execute big plays, both running and passing. The BG game was the first time they had a play from scrimmage go longer than 30 yards.
Lining up behind Keith has usually been Trayion Durham, who had an active game against the Zips, running 24 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. It seems like Jacquise Terry is at least accepting his role as the backup carrier. He's just not an every down back, probably never was, but can really stretch a defense with his receiving skills and maybe 10 runs a game.
And the defense ... well, all the words in the world have been put toward their praise. Why repeat ourselves?
It's a mathematical chance to put it lightly, but Kent State is still alive in the MAC East. They're at 3-3, but so is Miami, who beat them 9-3. They're a game behind OHIO, who also beat team. Temple is at 4-3, who they've yet to play, which means, apart from the obvious winning out, the Bobcats must lose to BG and Miami, who in turn must also lose to Western Michigan. Otherwise the proverbial "share" is in their reach should OHIO lose a single game, and you know how schools love to flaunt those.
Like I alluded earlier this month: they're sort of playing for 2012 in that much of the team is coming back for a cleaner start under Hazell. It doesn't mean they can't go whole hog into their final two games, including spoiling Eastern Michigan's best chance at bowl eligibility and possibly knocking out Temple — both tall tasks.