1.) Kent State is toast
This was probably apparent for weeks now, but for hopeful fans out there the possibility of a five win season was still available. Today against what appeared to be a ragged Bowling Green outfit and next week against Northern Illinois who is experiencing the same type of injuries the Golden Flashes are, fans were offered some hope to end the season on a high note.
That didn’t happen as after the first few drives and the likely demoralizing effect of giving the offense unused short fields all year lead the Kent State defense to get run over.
We all know that ordinarily this defense is certainly one of the top two or three in the MAC, so I’m led to believe by that effort the unit just threw in the towel on what has been a difficult season. I can’t blame them entirely after losing their emotional heart in Nate Holley two weeks ago and seeing the offense get the ball on the Bowling Green 40 after an interception and punt three plays later. That scenario has been happening all season for the Golden Flashes.
2.) James Morgan impressed
Sure the Bowling Green freshman quarterback’s stat line shouldn’t impress anyone (12/14 for 177 yards along with two touchdowns and two interceptions), but in the first quarter while the game was still in doubt he made a few nice plays.
I can’t take anything away from Morgan’s performance once the game got away, which was quite early. However, in the first quarter on two specific third and longs, Kent State brought heavily blitzes and Morgan not only stood in to take a hit, but identified the proper target and picked up drive continuing yards.
Morgan’s season numbers won’t jump off the page at you, especially his completion percentage, but I think the young quarterback has a real opportunity to develop into a quality player.
3.) The Kent State play calling is baffling
The ESPNU announcers kept telling us throughout the game that Nick Holley just can’t find space to run the ball. It was something of a surprise to them as he had been finding success most of the season leading up to this point.
Bowling Green though had the perfect game plan to combat the, only Holley all the time Kent State offense. Essentially the Falcon defense said forget you to every other skill position player and focused all their attention on the quarterback. They dared him to throw, giving the Kent State receivers massive cushions and you saw the result in the Ernest Calhoun touchdown catch and run (the only big play Kent State was able to generate).
Not only did the Bowling Green defense not have to worry about the receivers of Kent State, but the running backs saw almost no looks at the ball as well. Instead of running with Justin Rankin who had been averaging 4.7 yard per carry coming into the game, they left Holley out to dry as he danced in the backfield for negative gain after negative gain.
Bowling Green was the first team to really figure out that all the motioning and variation of formations that Kent State uses on every snap is just a distraction from a simple quarterback keeper, usually up the middle.
4.) Mike Jinks deserves some credit
With this Falcons team sitting with a record of 1-8, they could very easily packed it in for the winter and given up. There wasn’t much to play for an quite frankly not many to play in front of last night or against Akron.
Instead, Bowling Green recommitted themselves to a physical, smash-mouth style that picked up a Texas high school football-sized 638 yards on the ground the last two games.
For Bowling Green fans who have high expectations after the last few seasons, I encourage you to give Jinks another chance next season. Last night I saw a group of players utterly committed to their coach and it should bode well heading into next season.
5.) The opposite could be said for Paul Haynes
By all measures, this has been a difficult season for Kent State. They hung with Penn State (a top ten team) for much of the game, they let North Carolina A&T back into the game only to lose, and let almost every MAC game slip away at the end.
I get that fans of Kent State are upset at the 3-8 record so far this season and after last night you would expect 3-9 to finish the season. But a closer look at the actual games shows just how close Kent State has been to having a vastly different year.
With the exception of the game last night, the other four MAC losses have been by a combined 28 points, 16 of which came against nationally-ranked Western Michigan. With a few bounces, another stop, or a healthy quarterback to complement Nick Holley, Kent State could be looking down on the MAC East instead of up.
With that said though, the team is trending is a horrible direction. I don’t know if I give much credence in late season results carrying over to the next season, but I know the bad taste doesn’t help in key areas like recruiting or ticket sales.
The last two seasons now, Paul Haynes has seen his team give up. Last year, the final three games following a relatively competitive losing season saw Kent State outscored by 36 points including a 20-0 shutout by Akron. This year, Kent State kept it relatively competitive until the final two games before throwing in the towel.
As a fan, I want my coach to find a way to motivate players even in meaningless late season games. Mike Jinks was able to do that tonight and Paul Haynes was not.
(It should also be noted that I’m willing to eat my words should Kent State get some 2012 MAC Championship revenge next week against NIU.)