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2017 Week 4 Preview: Kent State Golden Flashes at Louisville Cardinals

Injured quarterback and road game at Louisville, what could possibly go wrong for Kent State?

NCAA Football: Kent State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday’s 21-0 falter at Marshall is behind the Kent State Golden Flashes, now turning the focus on their final non-conference game of the 2017 season at at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

After narrowly beating FCS Howard at home by seven points, KSU is still in search of its first win on the road against an FBS opponent since 2012, praying for an all-time upset against No. 20 ranked Louisville Cardinals.

The Golden Flashes opened the year at Clemson, currently ranked second in the latest Associated Press Poll. Under head coach Paul Haynes, KSU is notorious for visiting top 25 programs before league play, including last season at No. 1 Alabama and 2014 against No. 22 Ohio State.

Haynes, who’ll be back on the sidelines for a second straight week after taking time off due to illness, has won 13 games in four-plus seasons. KSU’s Bowl appearance in 2012 was the only time the program has played beyond the regular-season since 1972.

Headlining this week for the Golden Flashes is the loss of fifth-year senior quarterback Nick Holley, who suffered a torn ACL last week, and will be out for the remainder of the season. Holley was converted to quarterback five games into last season.

It was reported Wednesday that George Bollas will get the start. The redshirt junior has thrown for 1,213 yards with four touchdowns and nine interceptions in his career. He also went 4-of-12 for 55 yards against Marshall.

The Cardinals are fresh off their 47-21 loss to No. 2 Clemson last week, dropping them six spots in the AMWAY Coaches Poll. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson completed only eight of his 20 passes for 83 yards in the first half. The junior also ran for 64 yards and was sacked four times.

Louisville was 5-of-16 on third-down conversions and outgained by nearly 200 yards offensively.

Kickoff is at 12:00 P.M. EST on the ACC Network Extra.

When Kent State Has The Ball

Holley is too familiar with the injury bug.

Each of the last three seasons has been cut short for Holley, who had knee surgery the offseason after the 2016 campaign. Holley finishes with 1,788 total offensive yards and 16 total touchdowns in his career.

He had 313 total yards and three touchdowns in three games this season.

Bollas, who last started a regular-season game on Nov. 25 of last year against Northern Illinois, has recorded 1,213 yards passing and four touchdowns in his career.

He started six games in 2015, failing to eclipse the 200-yard marker and throwing six interceptions.

True freshman Dustin Crum, who completed three passes for 62 yards last week, may potentially see playing time, but Haynes told the Akron Beacon Journal that Bollas is expected to play all four quarters.

Sophomore running back Justin Rankin now leads the Golden Flashes in both rushing (86) and receiving yards (54), but Holley had 207 yards on the ground before the injury.

The team ranks 121st in the country and last in the Mid-American Conference in scoring offense, and 125th in total offense. They did rank fourth in the conference in rushing offense, but with Holley out, that’s bound to change.

Louisville’s defense is far from impressive, allowed over 36 points and 331 passing yards a game. Clemson was able to record over 35 minutes of possession time last week, going 9-of-17 on third down conversions.

When Louisville Has The Ball

The Cardinals have played two conference games (Tigers, North Carolina) and a surprising Big Ten contender (Purdue) this season and still ranks ninth overall in the nation in total offense (554.0).

Regardless, this is a team considered to have lost its shot at the College Football Playoff thanks to the 26-point drubbing at home. But two factors that the Courier-Journal hinted may help Louisville’s case.

First, UL still has to play Florida State in Tallahassee, at NC State and at Kentucky. Three of the four teams that made the playoff last year, including eventual winner Clemson, had a loss in the regular season.

Second, Lamar Jackson is the starting quarterback. One of the most prolific duo-threats in recent memory, the All-American threw for over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Jackson ranks 11th in the country this season in passing offense, averaging 362 yards a game. Sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Smith had 27 passes for 599 yards and six touchdowns in 2016, and has caught 22 passes for 379 yards this season.

As a defense, the Golden Flashes has allowed nearly 500 yards of total offense and 36 points a game this year. They rank 119th in total defense.

Game Notes

Haynes was once the defensive coordinator for Bobby Petrino, head coach of the Cardinals, at the 2011 Cotton Bowl in his one year with Arkansas. The two were also on the Jacksonville Jaguars staff during the 2001 season, with Haynes as a defensive quality control coach and Petrino as offensive coordinator.

Kent State has totaled a record of 12-26 against current programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference. KSU also played Louisville every year from 1956-73, besides 1971, in which the Golden Flashes finished 8-9. The opening week loss to Clemson was the first time KSU played an ACC program since 2014 on the road against Virginia.

The Cardinals are the only FBS team outside of the Mid-American Conference that KSU has played more than once. Kent State hasn’t beaten a Power Five team since 2012, upsetting then-No. 18 ranked Rutgers, 35-23.


Since the beginning of the 2013 season, the Golden Flashes have accumulated a 9-1 record when scoring 27 points or more in a game, the latest being their 38-31 score over FCS Howard two weeks ago.

Yet, KSU has gone 4-36 when falling short of the 27-point plateau. The team combined for three points in the losses to Clemson and Marshall and now must face a Cardinals team that’s gone 14-5 at home since 2014 and won eight-plus games in the last five years.

This has turned into another guaranteed non-conference win for KSU’s opponent. Not only is the reigning Heisman winner still going strong for the Cardinals, they’re also less than a year removed from a Citrus Bowl appearance.

KSU won’t finish out the season with just one win, having totaled six the last two seasons, but it certainly won’t come Saturday.

Prediction: Louisville 41, Kent State 6