September 11, 2008

Just what the doctor ordered?

After being shut out, 21-0, by Boston College to open the 2008 season then traveling to Ames, Iowa only to turn the ball over four times and have two punts blocked in a 48-28 loss to the Iowa State Cyclones, Kent State returns to the friendly confines of Dix Stadium Saturday for its first home game of the year.

It's not the excitement of playing in the newly remodeled Dix Stadium that has Kent State head coach Doug Martin ready to hit the field. It's the chance to put the first two weeks of the season behind him and his Golden Flashes.

"I look forward to playing a game," Martin said. "It can't get here fast enough; I know that."

Last season, the Golden Flashes led Delaware State just 7-0 at halftime before busting out for 31 points in the final two quarters of their 38-7 victory. The Hornets make a return trip to Kent with 14 starters returning from last year's squad that finished 10-2 on the year, including a perfect 8-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The 10 wins set a school record for victories. They entered the season as the No. 2 team in the Sheridan Broadcast Network Black College football poll.

Leading the way for the Hornets is dual-threat quarterback Vashon Winton, who completed 153 of 259 passes for 1,618 yards and 12 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions last season. He also finished third on the team in rushing with 260 yards and five scores.

"We're going to play a dangerous football team that has an outstanding quarterback that is very much like (Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman)," Martin said. "His strength is running; he's very athletic, throws the ball adequately, makes people miss, but he's really good at avoiding the rush."

Winton rushed for four touchdowns and threw for another score in Delaware State's 35-28 overtime win over Florida A&M to start the season.

The Hornets have other weapons, including running back Chris Strother (32 carries-139 yards against Florida A&M), senior running back Kareem Jones and a defense that returns six starters from last season. Junior Josh Pope, a first team all-conference selection, returns after leading the team in tackles last season with 75. Kevin Connor led the team with eight tackles in the season opener.

"Defensively, they bring a lot of pressure just like they did last year; pretty much the same group of guys," he said. "So, it's going to be a very competitive game. We were the only regular season game that they lost last year. They've got a very good program, excellent coaching staff; we better play a lot better than we did last week."

Last week, Kent State turned the ball over four times. If they again struggle to protect the football, they could start the season 0-3. The Hornets scored 14 points off Florida A&M turnovers-incidentally, both on special teams-and ended the game in overtime with an intercepted pass.

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