Not only has Kent State lost twice this season, they’ve lost twice at home. They lost to a conference rival (Ohio) on a last-second field goal, and to a Sun Belt opponent (South Alabama) which had racked up a record of just 8-19 over the last two seasons.
However, neither of those games represent Kent State’s most heartbreaking loss this year.
Right before their 2014 campaign was slated to start, 21-year-old center Jason Bitsko was found dead in his off-campus apartment, apparently of natural causes.
The Flashes will be wearing the number 54 on their helmets Saturday when they play Ohio State in Bitsko’s honor. At least one Buckeye, you’d imagine, will also find some way of honoring Bistko. Braxton Miller was his high school teammate.
It is possible that Bitsko’s passing helps explain Kent State’s early struggles. At the same time, it is definitely proof that the sport of football is unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
Still, since there is a game being played this weekend, let’s scout the Flashes, coached by former Ohio State assistant Paul Haynes.
Their biggest problems thus far this season have come on the offensive side of the ball. They are only averaging 1.9 yards per carry. There are only four teams with worse numbers in that category (Wake Forest, UCF, Washington State and SMU).
Quarterback Colin Reardon has been hot and cold. He’s completing 58 percent of his passes and has 4 touchdowns to just one interception. However, he missed on 9 of his first ten passes against South Alabama.
Sophomore slot receiver Ernest Calhoun has been Reardon’s leading target thus far with 14 catches. The Akron Buchtel product is listed at 5’6″, 151 pounds. Senior Chris Humphrey is the other receiver who has double-digit catches. In fact, he’s had a reception in 22 straight games.
Senior Casey Pierce has proved to be an effective pass-catching tight end.
The defense has been slightly better. Dating back to last season, Kent State has given up a mere 15 points per game over the course of their last five games.
Safety Nate Holley, another gritty undersized player at 5’11”, already has 27 tackles this season, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and quarterback rush. Fellow safety Jordan Italiano and linebacker Matt Dellinger represent two of the Flashes top three tacklers from a year ago. Meanwhile, NFL.com called nose tackle Nate Terhune one of the toughest players in college ball. (Refusing to take painkillers after you break your leg so you can continue to lift weights will get you recognized as a tough guy.)
That’s not to say the Kent State defense hasn’t had their share of letdowns. They’ve allowed opponents to convert on nearly 42 percent of their third downs, which ranks them 90th in the country. In two games, the Flashes have only allowed teams into the red zone three times, but all three times their opponent came away with a touchdown.
Finally, on special teams, punter Anthony Melchiori has already bombed one 71 yards this year. However, the team’s place kicker, also Melchiori, has missed on his two field goal attempts, both within 32 yards.