David Carducci Blog: Kent State at Kentucky
By David Carducci
A 47-14 loss was not what I was expecting from this trip to Kentucky.
After watching Kent State since the beginning of August, I thought this team was ready to battle right to the end in a game like this.
The play of the defense created some red flags. Once the Kentucky offense started to get on a roll, the Flashes never seemed to be able to catch their breath. The only real sign of life came in that goal-line stand in the third quarter. But in a blink, that chance at a momentum builder flipped with the safety and quick touchdown after the free kick.
After the game Hazell talked about needing to "figure this out" because teams will up-tempo Kent State's defense to death until it proves it can stop it.
The biggest issues appear to be in defending the pass. Maxwell Smith's final numbers were 30-for-39 for 354 yards and four scores.
Add in last week's Towson game and Kent State has allowed opposing quarterbacks to go 56-for-75 (74-percent) for 600 yards and five touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Those numbers obviously have to get better. But just as alarming is the per-game average of 127.5 yards per game and four touchdowns surrendered on the ground so far this season.
As Jake Dooley said, the players are going to have to look themselves in the mirror. This defense should be better.
On offense, I am a believer in Spencer Keith, but Kent State needs to get more out of the passing game. Keith should have his chances as teams try to sell out against a running game that is looking like it could be pretty good. Archer is still a playmaker, and Durham looked like the big-back Kent State fans have been dreaming about for years on several powerful runs tonight.
The good news is Kent State has a long bye week to figure out some of the issues. The bad news is, we all have to sit on this one for 11 days before the Flashes visit Buffalo on Wednesday night, Sept. 19.
6:42 FOURTH QUARTER
Kent State couldn't reach the end zone on four cracks from inside the Kentucky 10-yard line.
7:28 FOURTH QUARTER
Kent State is knocking on the door at the Kentucky 8-yard line. But even a touchdown here would be too little, too late.
Kentucky's lead has swelled to 47-14 as KSU still hasn't found an answer to Maxwell Smith. The Kentucky quarterback is now 30-for-39 for 354 yards and four touchdowns.
END OF THIRD QUARTER
The story of this game is in these numbers:
Kentucky leads in total yardage, 440-266 ... but Kent State leads in time of possession 26:09 to 17:54.
Maxwell Smith is 27-for-36 for 284 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and he hasn't really been harrassed, getting sacked just once.
In two games, Kent State's defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to go 53-for-72 (73-percent) for 530 yards.
That's an issue the coaches are going to have to solve.
3:20 THIRD QUARTER
It's unfortunately starting to slip away for Kent State.
A 38-yard touchdown run by George, breaking several tackles along the way, has extended the Kentucky lead to 33-14.
Kentucky has now conerted 7-of-12 on third down tonight. The Wildcats also have 423 yards total agaisnt a Kent State defense that is looking more and more tired by the minute.
4:25 THIRD QUARTER
Signs of life, and some real life from the Kent State defense, holding Kentucky out of the end zone on three cracks from the 1 after a fumble by Archer.
Unfortunately, Archer trips over Keith's feet trying to run the ball out of the end zone after the stand, and Kentucky gets the safety... Now 26-14 Kentucky.
7:06 THIRD QUARTER
Kent State's defense is reeling. Kentucky answered the Kent State score with another long drive ending with Smith's 18-yard touchdown pass to Gene McKaskill.
The Flashes' defense needs to come up with some answers to the pace and dink-and-dunk style of Kentucky. The Wildcats offense already has 360 yards of total offense and the third quarter is only half over. Smith is 24-for-32 for 260 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
10:34 THIRD QUARTER
Kent State is back in business after a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Trayion Durham's 26-yard rumble to paydirt.
Really liked the mix in the offense on that drive. Keith threw to the running backs, he hit Chris Humphrey on a key third down, he continued to find ways to get the ball into Archer's hands, and he had a nice run for a first down.
Kent State now within three points at 17-14. Now it's up to the defense to get it back, again. Stops just aren't coming easy for this defense as Kentucky nears 300 yards of total offense.
THE FIRST-HALF GAMEPLAN
Kent State tried to get creative on offense to spark a quick start in tonight's game and get Kentucky's defense thinking a bit.
Unfortunately, it met with mixed success.
"The plan is to do it in the first 20 scripted plays, give them a whole bunch of different things they haven't seen," Hazell said on Thursday.
Here's what we saw: lots of shifting, which the Flashes' coaches call "exploding" – showing Kentucky one formation and shifting to another.
We also saw some formations we've never seen from Kent State. The offense runs the same plays out of those formations that they ran last week against Towson, and last year during the 4-1 finish to the regular season.
"We only have maybe two or three different looks, but I call it window dressing," said offensive coordinator Brian Rock. "They are the same plays we have that our guys are really comfortable with, but with a different window dressing, with different motion, out of a formation we haven't run it out of before."
"We'll also put some formation into the boundary," Rock continued on Saturday morning before the team's final meetings in preparations for Kentucky. "They are a field defense, so I think formation into the boundary may cause some consternation for them. We'll add some motions into where we are changing strength. Probably over half of the plays involve something along those lines.
"The other ones, we've talked to the quarterbacks about changing tempos," said Rock. "We want to start the game getting them on their heals a little bit, make them more worried about making the right call then making the right play."
It worked on Kent State's lone touchdown, as tempo and different formations designed to get the ball to speedster Dri Archer set the stage for his 47-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The Flashes ran out of several different formations designed to get the ball to Archer in space.
Some Kent State fans were frustrated with a decision to throw on third-and-one deep in Kentucky territory late in the first half. I believe the thinking behind that was that they set up the play by running something different out of that look earlier in the game – a naked with an intended throw-back to a wide receiver that was never thrown because pressure Kentucky's defensive line forced Keith to pull the ball down and run with it on the first series of the game for the Flashes.
Disappointing first half considering all of the yards Kent State's defense has surrendered.
Kentucky called timeout at its own 20 yard line with 24 seconds to go and facing a third-and-10. Joker had a feeling he could get something and he was right, extending the lead to 17-7 on a Craig MacIntosh 47-yard field goal on the final play of the half. The big play that set it up was a screen pass to Jonathon George of 26 yards after Kent State lost discipline.
Coming up, I'll explain some of the Kent State offensive gameplan.
0:58 SECOND QUARTER
Kent State drive has reached the Kentucky 14, but it'll 3rd-and-1 after the Flashes' time out.
We are seeing some plays we haven't seen so far this year, hitting Archer in some different spots, and now finding Durham on back-to-back pass plays leading up to this third-and-1.
Unfortunately, that third-and-1 came up empty when Keith rolled right and tried to hit Adeyemi with a desparation throw near the goal line.
And when Freddy Cortez misses a 31-yard field goa, Kent State squanders a chance to go into the half with some momentum.
2:26 SECOND QUARTER
Kent State's defense held, finally getting some pressure on Smith and then finishing some tackles coming up on the receiver in the short passing game.
Now Kent State is driving and doing a nice job trying to get the ball to Dri Archer in different areas of the field and out of different looks.
Third-and 5 from the Kentucky 33 converted on a swing pass to Durham, who is also making plays as a receiver out of the backfield.
5:40 SECOND QUARTER
Kent State's offense just can't quite get it going. After the Smith touchdown for Kentucky, Dri Archer answered with a long return. Tack on a late hit at the end of the play and the Flashes' started at the Kentucky 44 yard-line. Unfortunately, that was followed by a three-and-out.
The Flashes have just 22 net passing yards, and against a young secondary that's been taking some heat here in Lexington.
They are getting yards in the running game (148 and a 5.5 average), but there needs to be more balance.
Now it's time to see if Kent State's defense can pull itself back together after giving up a long drive and one long sprint on back-to-back touchdown drives by Kentucky.
8:12 SECOND QUARTER
Kent State needs to prove it can stop the pass. Maxwell Smith is 13-for-18 for 128 yards and a touchdown, and he's about to get the ball back after KSU's first drive of the second quarter stalled.
Smith hit Aaron Boyd for a 14-yad touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 earlier in thequarter.
KSU couldn't answer as Freddy Cortez' 50-yard field goal hit the crossbar and fell short.
END OF THE FIRST QUARTER
Kent State has not looked good against the pass in the early going for the second week in a row. The big play was there for the Wildcats, but forunately Maxwell Smith missed on a wide-open receiver. Smith is 12-of-17 for 114 yards after one quarter, and has Kentucky at the KSU 18 at the start of quarter No. 2.
Flashes offense has been all run. Archer flashed the same speed that broke last week's game open on that 47-yard run. Kentucky's defense had no chance once he hit that second level. Durham also running well, four carries for 23 yards.
SEPT. 8, 8:14 p.m.
Dri Archer's speed does it again. A quick draw gave Archer just enough room to get to the second level, where he just exploded by the Wildcats linebackers and DB's.
Kent State grabbed the 7-0 lead, but as I'm typing, Kentucky is now driving right down through the heart of the Kent State defense. The Wildcats have the ball inside the Flashes' 20 as the first quarter clock runs out.
SEPT. 8, 7:58 p.m.
Best we've seen from KSU offense is a 13-yard rumble by Trayion Durham.
Spencer Keith has completed 2-of-4 passes, but for negative-2 yards.
The Flashes alsom missed a great chance to pin Kentucky deep for its third drive when Anthony Melchiori got his punt to bounce inside the five, but the coverage team couldn't pick up the ball before it rolled into the end zone.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 8, 7:43 p.m.
Kent State follows with three-and-out of its own, failing to put pressure on Kentucky's young defense. After two quick passes were thrown incomplete, Spencer Keith tried to hit Matthew Hurdle with a throw-back after a naked roll out to his right, but had to pull the ball down and run.
First chink in the armor in Kent State defense showed up on first play of Kentucky's second series as free safety Calvin Tiggle lost track of Kentucky's Keenan Stalls on a wide-open post route that should have gone for six.
Kentucky is getting nothing in the running game. Only moving the ball with short passes ... and a late flag for pass interference after going for a risky fourth down at the Kent State 45.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 8, 7:36 p.m.
Injury from last week doesn't appear to be bothering Freddy Cortez. His opening kickoff sails into the end zone for a touchback.
Dooley and Fackler stop the run early... 6-yard loss sets up 3rd-and-12.... And Flashes secondary keeps slant short of marker, forcing an early three-and-out.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 8, 7:27 p.m.
Kent State just took the field. Lower deck a little more than three-quarters full. Upper deck more than half empty. Not a tiny crowd, but certainly not the intimidating environment Kent State found at Alabama last year.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 8, 4:15 p.m.
Stopped by the Kent State tailgate party on the corner of Winnie Street and Virginia Avenue, just a few blocks from Commonwealth Stadium.
Kent State officials brought five couples – all major donors to the athletic department – with them to lexington yesterday. They all traveled south in a luxury coach. Once in Lexington, they were met by another five couples.
"The lifetime commitment of the people involved in the trip just this year alone is over a half-million dollars," said Matt Geis, Executive Director for Athletic Advancement. The trip is, "about involving them as family, bringing the people who support us on the side."
One of the KSU alums who met the group here in Lexington was Dave Edmonds, a former Golden Flashes third baseman who is now the Senior Vice President, Worldwide Services at FedEx. Edmonds spoke to the team on Friday night at the team hotel.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2:12 P.M.
I had some time this afternoon to do a little research to see where the Golden Flashes' 5-1 mark in their last six games dating back to 2011 ranks nationally.
Here's what I found:
Only Baylor and TCU have better records than Kent State in that stretch, going 6-0
Only 17 other teams came into the weekend with 5-1 records in their last six games. The other teams include: Florida State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Ohio University, Northern Illinois, Oregon, USC, South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Western Kentucky, Utah State, Louisiana Tech and BYU. From that list, Utah State has already won to improve to 6-1 in the last seven games.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 9:30 A.M.
The team's day is already underway. After a chapel service in one of the meeting rooms at the team hotel, it was time for breakfast. Meetings and walkthroughs begin at 10:30 a.m. leading up to our departure for Commonwealth Stadium at 5:05 p.m.
From reading the Lexington Herald-Leader this morning, it appears Kentucky coach Joker Phillips plans to go even younger than he did last week when the Wildcats played 13 freshmen in an ugly loss to Louisville.
In that game, Kentucky's defense surrendered a whopping 466 yards of total offense.
Phillips response in the story by the Herald-Leader's Jennifer Smith was that he has no choice but to go with even more freshmen in today's game against Kent State.
"We give up 460-something yards when you're a junior. Why not put a freshman in there, and see if we can give up just 400 yards?" he said. "They deserve to play and we'll give them the opportunity."
A pretty severe thunderstorm blew through Lexington last night (and from the look of the radar, it hit more than just Lexington considering the front appeared to stretch almost from Dallas to Toronto).
It's still overcast and cool here, but the rain has finally stopped and should hold off for the rest of the day.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 4:45 P.M.
The team busses arrive at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky. for a brief walkthrough before finally settling in at the team hotel.
I spent some time at the stadium with new Kent State director of football operations Tommy Cook, who came to Kent from Kentucky just two short months ago. Cook is a former Wildcats wide receiver (2000-05) who also served as a graduate assistant coach and assistant director of football operations at the school prior to taking a job at Kent State.
Here's what Cook had to say about returning to his college home:
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 9:30 A.M.
My first road trip with the Golden Flashes' football team as the Director of New Media. We meet at Dix Stadium a little before 10 a.m. and board four busses for Lexington.
Unfortunately, senior wide receiver Tyshon Goode and junior defensive end Richard Gray are not with us. Goode hasn't recovered from an injured hamstring the way the Flashes' coaches had hoped. In a last minute decision between two players for the final spot on the road roster, Hazell decided to give Goode another week of rest.
While the Flashes are deep on the defensive line and should be able to absorb the loss of any one player, I'm going to miss the chance to watch Gray, who suffered an injury in the third quarter of the week-one win over Towson. Gray is one of the most athletic defensive linemen I've watched in over a decade covering Kent State. When he is dialed in and lined up next to Roosevelt Nix, the Flashes find a tandem that is hard for opposing offensive lines to get blocked.
Gray's Lawrence-Taylor-esque sack of Towson's Grant Enders was last week's winner of the Jack Lambert Hit of the Week Award by the Kent State coaches.