The Golden Flashes (1-4, 0-1 MAC) hit the road for their second MAC test of the year, this time against the Bobcats (4-1, 1-0 MAC).
Last year’s slobber-knocker hung in the balance until overtime, when a one-yard run by former Golden Flash Marquez Cooper sealed the deal. This year’s contest figures to have a different feel as Kent State has undergone significant changes.
We take a look at where each squad stands heading into the contest.
- Time and date: Saturday, October 7th, 3:30 PM Eastern
- Network: ESPN+ (subscription required)
- Location: Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium, Athens, Ohio
- Gambling considerations: Ohio is favored by 26 points, with an over/under of 46, pt DraftKings.
- Last Time: Saturday October 1, 2022, Kent State 31-24 OT
- Special Event: Ohio’s Homecoming
- Streaks: Ohio is undefeated (8-0) since the field at Peden Stadium was dedicated to Frank Solich last season.
Getting to Know The Golden Flashes
If you listen to head coach Kenni Burns’ weekly press conferences, you’ll hear it end like this: ‘Go Flashes, Kent G.R.I.T.” The acronym G.R.I.T is the motto established by the first-year coach meaning “Grow and Respond with Integrity, Together” and is the integral message about who the new-look Golden Flashes want to be.
KSU began Burns’ inaugural season with the tough task of replacing 19 of 22 starters, including the entire offense. And while it might not show in the record yet at 1-4 after a brutal non-conference schedule, it is easy to see an improving squad who will rally together and battle opponents regardless of the score.
Defensively, KSU came together last week for their best effort of the season, holding the MAC’s second-ranked scoring offense (Miami RedHawks) 11 points below their season average of 34 points per game.
Leading the charge for the Flashes is their most experienced defender, interior defensive linemen CJ West, who will gear up for his 28th career start this week. Working behind West in the linebacking corps is Missouri transfer Devin Nicholson, who has quickly assimilated to become the squad’s leading tackler with 35 so far this year.
The secondary looked pretty effective especially early last week against the RedHawks where in single coverage or with safety help they successfully defended the deep passing assault led by Miami’s talented QB Brett Gabbert.
Offensively, KSU is in the middle of a full-blown rebuild and have scored just 25 points so far in four FBS contests albeit against some tough competition including the UCF Knights and the 25th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs. Yet one comes away from the last two weeks with the impression that things will start to click more regularly as the team gains experience. The Golden Flashes are trying to get eleven new starters on the same page and continue to develop their timing that would make an offense click that leans regularly on run-pass option (RPO).
Last week in a 23-3 loss to the Miami Redhawks the offense missed some golden opportunities they’ll hope to convert in the near future like an explosive RPO pass called back on penalty for linemen downfield and also not connecting on deep throws a few times when the wideout had a step.
Coming together as a core to lead the offensive charge in 2023 and beyond is Purdue transfer QB Michael Alaimo, RB Gavin Garcia, and WR Chrishon McCray, who burned the Redhawks last week with 10 catches for 105 yards.
Getting to Know The Bobcats
The Bobcats were on a bye week last week, but scorched the Bowling Green Falcons 38-7 in their last contest, all the more impressive given BGSU soundly beat power five opponent Georgia Tech 38-27 last Saturday.
An experienced ‘Cats squad starts Week 6 with things fairly well in hand in all phases at this point but look to keep their collective feet on the gas, continuing to gain momentum and refine their units as MAC play progresses.
The ‘Cats are led by one of the Group of Five’s best defenses and the stats bear that out with the following per game national rankings: top five in scoring defense with a shade under 10 points, fourth in scoring defense with 237 yards, and second in rushing yards with 66.
Notable is how well the passing defense has held up given how effective the rushing defense has been. So far in five games, Ohio is allowing just over one pass a game on average of 20 yards or more including only two all season over 23 yards (both versus Iowa State, 45 and 39 yards).
According to head coach Tim Albin at this week’s press conference, the standard operating procedure for the ‘Cats offense is to employ “a balanced approach,” mixing the pass and run.
The Bobcats offense is well-defined in both areas, led by QB Kurtis Rourke, who in his last game (vs. BGSU) was crisp as a passer, completing 14-of-16 throws for 196 yards and three scores.
The big change this week in the passing game this week will be the absence of wideout Jacoby Jones, owing to a season-ending injury versus the Falcons. Jones will be missed as he is a big play waiting to happen when on the field, as he showed versus BGSU, racking up four catches for 85 yards in just a quarter and a half with his typical circus catches mixed in.
Fortunately for the ‘Cats, they are deep at wideout and tight end, led by receiver Sam Wiglusz with 21 catches for 204 yards and a score so far. Defenses appear to have focused on taking away the slant to Wiglusz in the red zone early in the season and we will see what happens this week.
Through five games Ohio has committed to the run with 195 attempts, averaging 3.6 yards per carry led by Sieh Bangura with 287 yards. The Flash will also see O’Shaan Allison tote the rock coming into the contest with 212 yards this year. Rourke has been a factor the past few weeks against Iowa State and BGSU with timely scrambles for first downs and leads the club with 5.2 yards per carry.