As the line between Mid-American Conference football talent and that of the Big Ten becomes increasingly blurred, Kent State has the opportunity to deal the next blow to the once great football power.
The Golden Flashes (1-2) and Penn State Nittany Lions (2-1) provide the next installment of MAC vs. Big 10 (11,12,13?) Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Kent State enters have suffered a blowout loss at Louisiana State a week ago. The Golden Flashes were routed in every aspect of the game, yielding 571 yards of total offense to the Tigers. LSU scored 21 first quarter points and raced out to a three touchdown halftime lead. Both Terrence Magee and Jeremy Hill topped 100 yards rushing for the Tigers. Offensively Kent State desperately missed a healthy All-American running back Dri Archer as KSU managed just 58 yards rushing. The lone bright spot for the Golden Flashes was quarterback Colin Reardon. Reardon completed 20 of 29 passes for 190 yards, was not intercepted, and rushed for KSU's lone touchdown. Reardon figures to play prominently into any measure of success Kent State may have Saturday as we've learned Archer is doubtful and the stingy Penn State defense allows just 117 yards rushing. Kent State head coach Paul Haynes knows Reardon will need to shoulder the offensive load.
"Coach Rock and the staff have been good at giving him a game plan that he can handle,'' Haynes said. "Make it simple. We will continue to do that. Plus I think the receivers are playing better. We are not having a lot of drops. That's giving him confidence, and he's spreading the ball around."
Penn State enters Saturday with a severely bruised ego. The Nittany Lions were victims to Central Florida a week ago, 34-31, marking the Knights first win over a Big Ten team in school history. Penn State never led in the game and was exploited for 507 total yards. The Penn State defense looked pedestrian and was unable to keep up with a variety of Central Florida offensive formations. For a school that exceeded expectations and went 8-4 a year ago, losing to an American Athletic Conference school was not in the plans.
"Losing’s brutal," Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday during his weekly teleconference. "You do not want to lose. Losing is just not a good feeling. But what you have to do as a coach and as a player in this sport, you immediately have to pick yourself right back up. I allow them maybe 12 hours or mourning, then they have to pick themselves back up because you have an opponent on the horizon that is a good opponent."
The Golden Flashes may have their hands full Saturday as Penn State surely doesn't want to enter Big Ten play on the heels of back to back home losses.
"What I've learned from these kids is they are resilient," O'Brien said. "They come into the office on Sunday on their own. That's their day off. They're watching film, getting treatment, and are ready to go on Monday."