September 2, 2008

Here we go again...

I can't help it-I'm the eternal optimist. I somehow believe our economy will change for the better, gas prices will again dip below $2.00 per gallon and Kent State football will remain competitive for the rest of my lifetime.

I know, I know…I should add that we'll eventually solve hunger and enjoy world peace too.

This year, though, I've been a bit less optimistic about the Golden Flashes. Not because I don't think they'll field a competitive squad, but because I think they really are one year away from becoming a powerhouse in the Mid-American Conference.

Saturday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium I found out many of my peers think even less of the Flashes.

It started shortly after kickoff-make that immediately after Kent State opened the game with a pooch kick that gave the Eagles the ball at their own 42 to start the game. Never mind the Eagles ran just five plays before punting away the ball; the press box was filled with groans of "here we go again."

Throughout the game many of those writers didn't try to conceal their criticisms of head coach Doug Martin and the Golden Flashes. Incomplete pass-"oh, he's got to catch the ball." Sack or scramble-"he's afraid to throw it." Gain for the Eagles-"these guys just don't know what they are doing on defense."

You'd think the press box was filled with Hall of Fame coaches the way criticisms were shared.

That discontent carried over throughout the long weekend. One popular message board had a familiar message-the Flashes stink. They couldn't explain the Golden Flashes offensive strategy or some of the decisions Martin made during the game. "Where was the tight end?" "Why didn't they throw it downfield more often?" "Is it basketball season yet?"

The fact is Kent State got beat by a better team. And for the most part, they looked good in the loss.

Keep in mind, Kent State didn't open the season against Youngstown State, Coastal Carolina, Detroit or even Hampton. The Flashes kicked off the 2008 campaign against an Atlantic Coast Conference team that finished the 2007 season ranked 14th in the final BCS Poll. Sure, the Eagles lost quarterback Matt Ryan, but their defense returned virtually intact. That defense was ranked second in the nation against the run and 19th overall.

Last season the Eagles allowed just 75.5 rushing yards per contest. The Flashes picked up 126.

Kent State competed in the game. Sure, there were mistakes like the one a pair of freshmen committed on a first quarter trick play that would have given the Golden Flashes an opportunity to get on the scoreboard first (an under thrown ball that should have been caught) or the one quarterback Julian Edelman made when he threw the ball into the outstretched arms of defensive lineman Mark Herzlich, who tipped then intercepted the pass to end a Golden Flashes red zone appearance.

But overall, the Flashes minimized their mental and physical mistakes that were all too common last season when they finished 3-9.

Martin started his post-game press conference by saying he feels the Flashes are going to win a lot of games this season-and after watching the team Saturday night, even in a losing performance, I'm coming around. I'm more optimistic about the 2008 season than I was before even if those around me see the same old thing.

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