David Carducci Blog: Kent State at Army Live Blog
By David Carducci
Previous Blog Entries
To contact David Carducci with a question or comment during the game, email him at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @CarducciKSU
0:00 ... Final from West Point, Kent State wins 31-17. At 5-1, the Golden Flashes are off to their best start since 1973 when they opened that season 7-1.
Ticket office at the M.A.C. Center opens at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, so if you don't have your tickets for Homecoming vs. Western Michigan on Oct. 20, get them. This team deserves a full house at Dix Stadium next week.
6:43 ... Many of the Army fans heading for the exit after that fumble.
I'll be ending the live blog in a bit to head down to the field.
7:53 ... Starting to get a bit scary here if you are a Kent State fan.
Army marching again. Now in the red zone after a late-hit by Anthony Parker.
Clock clicking inside seven minutes as Army prepares to go for 4th and 2 ...
FUMBLE and Kent State has it.
Danny Gress recovered after Raymond Maples dropped the pitch on the option left. Sidney Saulter gets credit for the force fumble.
Kent State ball at its own 13.
9:42 ... I'd get a game ball to Anthony Melchiori after this one. He keeps flipping the field.
The 59-yarder here came when Kent State really needed it. The offense going backwards a bit and the defense starting to wear down apparently.
Army offense is getting some overloads and starting to feel its oats, gashing the Kent State defense for 10-plus yard runs and moving the ball quickly.
As I write this, Army has marched all the way to the Kent State 34 ... and it will get more after an Anthony Parker personal foul on a late hit. Now Army at the Kent State 19 with 8:36 to play.
12:05 ... Kent State's defense may be starting to wear down a bit.
Army gets its first touchdown of the day on a 5-yard Malcolm Brown touchdown run, but the march by Army was double-speed – 81 yards on just 10 plays and in less than three minutes.
Score now Kent State 24, Army 10
1:27 ... Kent State continues to execute. A quick 61-yard drive, capped by Trayion Durham's 2-yard touchdown run, extends the Golden Flashes lead to 24-3.
Dri Archer's 44-yard run to the Army seven was the obvious key play of the drive. Again, he changed directions and spun out of tackles before apparently running out of gas.
Through three quarters, Archer has 142 rushin gyards on just nine carries.
3:12 ... Army on the board with a Dan Grochowski 37-yard field goal.
And, by the way, kicking away from Archer isn't necessarily a great bargain. Eric Adeyemi with a nice 37-yard return out to the Kent State 39.
4:44 ... Luke Wollet with a tackle for a big 1-yard loss of Maples as Army is starting to get something going. The Black Knights gashed a few 10-plus-yard runs and had a first down at the Kent State 26 before Wollet's big hit took them back off schedule.
Nice tackle by Batton followed (his 15th of the day, a career high) and Army will face a third-and-10 that it really needs to convert if it wants to get back in this game. Again, third-and-long is tough on this kind of an offense. Hold here, and you have to think Army will give a field goal another shot. Down three possessions.
9:35 ... When was the last time you saw a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches with the quarterback getting taken down from behind by a defensive tackle, and for a loss?
That's how good Roosevelt Nix is.
The turnover on downs at the Army 38 would set up a short Freddy Cortez field goal. The 28-yarder puts KSU ahead 17-0 now with 8:56 to go.
Archer followed the Nix tackle-for-loss with a 20-yard run that saw him reverse direction and spin out of several tackles. Archer is now at 88 yards on 7 carries.
0:00 ... We are at halftime with Kent State leading 14-0. While the offense was very good in the second quarter, this lead is courtesy of a defense that has kept the nation's No. 1 rushing offense in control.
Army entered the game averaging just a hair under 400 rushing yards per game. At halftime the Black Knights have just 115 yards on the ground, and 11 of those came on the half's final play as Kent State was protecting against a Hail Mary.
Nix has four tackles and a sack. Dana Brown has just two tackles, but he's been very good inside. The defensive star, however, has been linebacker Luke Batton.
Batton has 11 tackles, including nine solos.
1:29 ... Anthony Melchiori looking less and less like a freshman with every week.
His career-best 52-yard punt flips the field with 1:29 to go. With Army not exactly known for its two-minute offense, Kent State has a good shot at going into the half by maintaining this 14-point lead.
6:44 ... Spencer Keith play-action pass to Eric Adeyemi goes for 30 yards and Kent State's second touchdown of the day. Now 14-0 Golden Flashes lead it.
Establishing the running game set up the score. On several runs now, Archer has been one tackle away from going all the way.
The Flashes lined up with Archer at tailback and Durham at full back. Adeyemi had a couple of steps on the Army corner on the flag route and Keith hit him with a perfect throw.
Interesting how Kent State is starting to fall into a pattern of slow and sloppy first quarters followed by perfect execution in big second quarters.
9:20 ... Luke Batton and Roosevelt Nix starting to take control of the action when Army has the football. Batton is closing in on double-digit tackles. And the shot-out-of-a-cannon Nix just forced a third-and-long with a seven-yard sack of Steelman.
11:46 ... Kent State on the board first ... and on a play I knew we'd see.
Dri Archer, this time through the air, throwing back to quarterback Spencer Keith for a 24-yard touchdown.
About an hour before kickoff, Hazell told me we would see that play as soon as Kent State got close to the red zone. They saw on film that the throwback would be wide open.
Kent State up now 7-0.
First touchdown pass for Archer in his career on his first attempt. First touchdown catch for Keith.
Brings back days of the Bush-to-Cribbs plays of a few years back.
13:30 ... Army's Chris Carnegie just saved a touchdown by tripping up Dri Archer just as the Kent State back hit full speed on a 19-yard run. Tim Erjavec delivered a great block that nearly sprung Archer to the end zone.
Defensively, I don't think we've seen Richard Gray yet today.
I thought we might see more misdirection by the Kent State offense as Army's defense likes to gamble and try to shoot gaps.
0:00 ... Kent State has made through the first half of the 2012 season without giving up a single point in a first quarter.
Luke Batton off to a whale of a game with seven tackles after one quarter. That's a 28-tackle pace, which would still put him one shy of Jack Lambert's Kent State record.
1:19 ... Penalties, dropped passes. A very sloppy start for the Kent State offense.
Seeing a bit more of Anthony Meray than usual. He was in again on first down during KSU's second series.
Dri Archer showed off his versatility again, breaking up what should have been an easy Army interception on third-and-20.
4:24 ... Kent State's string of first-quarter shutouts was on the line as Army lined up for a 47-yard field goal. Fortunately for the Flashes, the attempt looked a little like me hitting a 1-iron off the deck.
I really like what I'm seeing from Kent State linebacker Luke Batton. Playing very well, getting off blocks, sure tackling.
We did see Army go for a fourth down, a 4th-and-1 on the Black Knight's side of the field. They followed with a 17-yard completion by a scrambling Steelman before the Flashes' defense stiffened.
9:36 ... Kent State's first drive will end in a punt after a drop by Matt Hurdle on third-and-four. An early look for Anthony Meray at running back on that third down.
12:31 ... Our first surpise of the day as Army chooses to punt on fourth-and-four from the Kent State 39. The Flashes expected the Black Knights to choose to go for the first on that down and distance on Kent State's side of the field.
A great play by Roosevelt Nix on third down, dropping Army's Larry Dixon for a one-yard loss.
That was followed by a heady play by Eric Adeyemi, blocking the Army gunner into the sideline to keep him from making a play on the punt. The touchback will give KSU the ball at the 20 for its first series.
14:51 ... Good early field position for the Black Knights at the 45 yard line after a short kick and a decent return.
Dana Brown is in the starting lineup at nose tackle after missing last week to injury.
15:00 ... Army gets the ball first. And first down is of course the key any time you play a triple-option team like Army.
As Hazell said earlier this week, Army looks at a three-yard gain on first down as a win because for the most part the Black Knights intend to go for the first down on most fourth-and-reasonables.
For the typical team, a penalty on first down means the offense getting off schedule. A gain of one or two can but a team like Army in a tough situation.
11:48 a.m. ... Panoramic shot didn't turn out. I managed to get to the pressbox roof, but from up so high there the parorama was distorted.
Army taking the field now.
They are expecting a little over 30,000 fans here on homecoming. Michie Stadium (pronounced "Mikey") seats 38,000.
Coin flip ... Army won the toss and has decided to receive.
11:23 a.m. ... Took a while to get online this morning. No wireless here at Michie Stadium.
It's a beautiful day here at Michie Stadium. Army band is filing in as I type this. We are about 20 minutes from the cadets marching into the stadium.
Great night in the city last night. We joined Joel Nielsen, Tom Kleinlein, Matt Geis and about 20 alumni and boosters for dinner at Connoly's, a really good Irish pub-restaurant a few blocks south of Central Park.
BLOG ENTRIES FROM EARLIER THIS WEEK
FRIDAY, Oct. 12
4:27 p.m... Great tour of West Point today. The players, coaches, alumni and boosters really appeared to enjoy getting a closer look at life at the United States Military Academy.
It's an impressive campus. I was surprised, however, to see a "Go Navy" flat flying from a front porch as we entered the central area.
In the coutyard entering the mess hall the cadets had banners reading "Beat Kent." Actually, one of the banners had a Penn State logo. Our guide told us, "apparently some of the cadets believe they are playing Penn State instead of Kent State." There's a competition for each company during the week, and he guessed the company that painted the "beat Penn State" banner probably wouldn't win. I haven't checked, but it could be that Army could be playing Penn State in another sport this weekend.
Kent State players taking photos of The Cadet Honor Code during Friday's Tour
Kent State coaches and players at the Eisenhower Monument
A welcome from the cadets
7:15 a.m... We are giving away four tickets to Saturday's Kent State at Army game to the first former or current member of the military to tweet me @CarducciKSU.
The tickets are courtesy of Harrison Kraft.
First to tweet me gets the seats.
Military ID or proof of service is required when tickets are picked up at the Will Call Gate – Gate 2 at Michie Stadium.
THURSDAY, Oct. 11
I always see a little bit of fear in the eyes of college coaches whenever they are getting ready to play Army.
Some of that may have to do with facing the triple option, an attack a team is only likely to see once in a season. Or several seasons.
The bigger fear, though, has to do with the blocking schemes they know they'll face. They know their defensive players are going to get cut, and with that comes the very real threat of injury. As much as Kent State would love to win this game and get to 5-1, the last thing the Flashes need is to come back to Mid-American Conference play with key players on the shelf after getting hit below the knees.
I talked to Hazell today about the worry about cut blocks. He said it's very real. It's also perfectly legal. Hazell was an assistant coach at Army from 1997-98, and back then his players had a quota for cut blocks. Hazell worked with the wide receivers and tight ends. Their quota was 20 cut blocks in a game. For the running backs, it was 35. And the offensive linemen? They had to come up with 60 cutblocks per game.
Remember how much NFL teams hated to go into Denver because they knew they were going to get cut all day long? It's the same thing in a trip to Army.
So, how do you prepare for it?
"This is the only week where we try to cut block in practice," said Hazell. "For Army and the service academies, cut blocking is a great equalizer. They want to get guys on the ground."
To me, dealing with the cut blocking and getting out of West Point healthy is the No. 1 key.
If any Kent State fans are out there looking for something to do this weekend, may I suggest a road trip to West Point, N.Y.
I just got off the phone with my good friend Brian Windhorst. He and his wife Maureen just moved to New York City. Many of you know Brian. He is a Kent State alum who works as an NBA writer for ESPN.com. Maureen is a Missouri grad, but she is a former Mid-American Conference beat writer for the Toledo Blade and she still loves the league.
Anyway, Brian and Maureen just got their tickets and will be making the trip to see Kent State and Army. It's only an hour and a half drive for them now as compared to just under eight hours for those travelling from Kent. But let me promise you, it's worth the drive.
I've been lucky to cover games in every NFL city and I've covered or watched football from most of the top college venues.
I have never enjoyed a gameday atmosphere more than Army.
The location is beautiful, with the campus right along the Hudson River. The stadium sits right on the Lusk Reservoir. From the seats high up on the west side (under the press box) you can see the campus to across the reservoir to the left. It's something special watching the cadets march from campus to the stadium, then stand in formation on the field waiting to be dismissed to their seats.
When that happens, the switch gets flipped, from poised and standing at attention to wild college kid ready to cheer on his team. They race for the best seats in the house, then they are into the game the entire day.
In the stands, you'll see all of the Army brass, and dressed to the nines.
When I was there for the Kent State game in 2006, three parachuters glided into the stadium before kickoff – the first two carrying flags. The last had the game ball to present to the officials at midfield.
It's just a great setting, and one every football fan should experience at least once.
Darrell Hazell said today that it is looking like Kent State will not get wide receiverTyshon Goode back this season.
Hazell and the injured senior have met several times this week. According to Hazell, there is one more meeting for Goode before a final decision is made.
Despite all of that, Goode was on the practice field today.
I thought the offense looked particularly sharp today with Spencer Keith running the two-minute drill at the end of practice. Keith hit tight end Tim Erjavec for a short touchdown to cap the drive. The second unit came up just short of getting into the end zone despite a long run by quarterback David Fisher after breaking containment.
Back to Erjavec, I met with him today to work on a feature for next week's Homecoming game program. He is a true throwback. As most of you know, he was a walk-on who came to Kent as a linebacker but moved to tight end. He plays the tight end with a linebacker's mentality. And while he's a big hitter while blocking in the run game, he has dramatically improved as a recevier in the last year. He's not just an extra blocker on passing downs. He's part of the passing game.
Most interesting, though, about Erjavec is his hobby off the field. You'll have to wait until the Oct. 20 program at Dix Stadium for the whole story on that, but here's a hing ... Think Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda.
MONDAY, Oct. 8
3:15 p.m. ... Head coach Darrell Hazell and injured wide receiver Tyshon Goode are meeting this afternoon to determine a course of action for the rest of the season. A decision will be made today on whether to keep pushing for his return this season or to apply for a medical redshirt and come back at full strength for a full year in 2013.
It has to be frustrating for Tyshon. He's been at practice, workign to get back. He made the trip to Buffalo two weeks ago and warmed up in the hopes of giving it a go, but was scratched. Now here we are with his team off to its best start since 1977. With conference games against Western Michigan, Akron, Miami, Bowling Green and Ohio remaining, it's easy to understand why he might want to hold out hope for a return this season.
There is some good news on the injury front, however. Starting linebacker Andre Parker will return to the lineup this week. I'm not sure if he is ready to get back to his old starting role, but he is listed No. 2 at the Sam Linebacker spot behind DeVante' Strickland. And speaking of Strickland, Hazell thought the converted defensive back played very well in his first extended action at linebacker on Saturday. We should also see Dana Brown back at his nose tackle spot. The senior was sidelined against Eastern Michigan, but he is back at No. 1 on the depth chart today.
Getting Brown and Parker back should be a big boost against a running team like Army.
Just a thought. Win or lose Saturday at Army, Kent State is coming back to Dix Stadium on Oct. 20 with an undefeated MAC record at 3-0 and owning at least a share of first place in the East Division. So plan accordingly. It'll be Homecoming and the stadium needs to be packed.
9:45 a.m. ... Here's a pretty stunning stat that shows just how far Kent State's football team has come in one year.
Through the first six games of the 2011 season, the Golden Flashes had managed just three offensive plays gaining 20 yards or more.
In just the last three games, Kent State has totaled 21 offensive plays gaining 20 yards or more. Obviously none of those include the yardage gained on three Dri Archer kick returns for touchdowns.
There are obviously several reasons for the turnaround.
First, the return of Dri Archer. All of us who watched Dri early in his career could see flashes of something special. We all knew about his speed. But who could have imagined what he has accomplished already this season. Give the coaching staff credit for seeing the versatility in Archer, moving him all over the football field to find different ways to get the ball into his hands.
Trayion Durham has made a big jump from his freshman to his sophomore year. While Archer has grabbed the bulk of the headlines for all of the electrifying plays, Durham has emerged as the true workhorse at running back and really the centerpiece of the offense. Archer is the perfect complement to Durham.
The offensive line doesn't get the credit it deserves for its development in less than a year. That unit was a big issue during the first half of last season. Now offensive line coach Chris Bache has the line playing at a very high level. The holes for Archer and Durham are big. More importantly, Spencer Keith has been kept relatively clean – 9 sacks for just 40 yards in losses, and none last week against Eastern Michigan.
The receiving corps has also made a big jump, and without the services of injured No. 1 Tyshon Goode. Matthew Hurdle has gone from un-tapped talent to a key to success in both the passing game and the running game. He has been very good as a blocker. Eric Adeyemi has been more productive, and younger receivers like Chris Humphrey and Josh Boyle are also coming on. Now the question is, do you still hold out hope for Goode to add even more spark to this unit, or is it time to think redshirt and a possible return next season? That question should be answered sometime this week.