Sean Lewis and his Kent State Golden Flashes nearly started the 2018 season with a huge upset last week, but 28 second-half points from Illinois powered the Illini to a 31-24 victory. The Flashes don’t have time to dwell on the loss; the Howard Bison are rolling into Dix Stadium a week after coming up short on the road against the Ohio Bobcats 38-32.
For KSU, Lewis’s up-tempo attack on Saturday resulted in the most offensive plays (84) in the last 35 games and the most completions (28) in the last 37 games. Quarterback Woody Barrett led the way with 387 yards of total offense, as wide receiver Antwan Dixon hauled in a touchdown after missing two seasons and receiving a bone marrow transplant in order to combat aplastic anemia.
Mike Carrigan led the way at wide-out with eight receptions, 62 yards and a score. Barrett was dynamic on the ground as well as the air as he rushed for 117 yards ans a TD while Justin Rankin added 52 yards. However, mistakes by the Flashes doomed Kent on offense as it threw two interceptions, went 5-17 on third down and 4-6 on fourth down, and allowed three sacks.
Defensively, linebacker Jim Jones was everywhere for the Flashes as he recorded 11 tackles and a sack against Illinois on his way to earning MAC East Division Player of the Week honors. Jamal Parker also tallied ten tackles in the loss. The pass defense of KSU was on point as it held its B1G foe to 190 passing yards and no passing touchdowns. On the flip side, Kent could not stop the rushing attack of Illinois as it piled up 279 yards and four scores.
The Illini also had a dramatic advantage in special teams as Illinois averaged over 15 more yards per punt than KSU, pinned the Flashes inside the 20-yard line twice, and recorded touchbacks on each of its kickoffs.
Last season, Kent State avoided being upset by the Bison thanks to a pair of fourth quarter scores but Howard looked good last week against a talented Ohio squad. The Bison offense accumulated 645 yards of offense against the Bobcats, with 532 yards coming from Caylin Newton, Cam Newton’s younger brother. Three turnovers doomed Howard in the game despite converting over 50% of its third downs. The defense was able to frustrate Ohio by holding them to 4-15 on third downs.
This should be a game that Kent State should win, but it won’t be without challenges. Being as undersized up front as KSU is should provide Howard with some opportunities offensively. However, the pace of the Flashes offense will come into play late in the game and the talent for Kent will take over. KSU wins something like 38-24.