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Know Your Foe, Week 1: Kent State Golden Flashes

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Penn State opens the season September 3 against Kent State.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Toledo Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Kent State University

Location: Kent, Ohio
Enrollment: 41,005 students
Home Stadium: Dix Stadium

Head Coach: Paul Haynes (4th year, 9–26 (.257)
Conference: Mid-American Conference (MAC)

Series History

First Game: November 6, 1965 (Penn State won 21-6)
Last Game: September 21, 2013 (Penn State won 34-0)
Overall: Penn State, 4-0-0
Current Streak: Penn State has won all four matchups dating back to 1965

Last Season (3-9, 2-6 MAC)

The Golden Flashes were led by third year head coach Haynes, finishing a tough season 3–9, 2–6 in MAC play in a three way tie for fifth place, last in the East Division of the MAC.

Kent State suffered through not one but two brutal losses: against Bowling Green, losing 48-0, and against Ohio University losing 27-0, and lost their final five games of the season.

The bright spot for the Golden Flashes? Kent State’s defense was one of the best units in the MAC last year, with its offense being one of the worst. But with the Golden Flashes returning about 89% of their starters from last year (fourth in the nation), they’ll be looking to put that experience to use for improvements.

Offseason

As far as recruiting goes, Kent State brought in the 132nd-ranked recruiting class, 12th in the MAC, according to 247 Sports. The top recruits for Kent State came from Ohio (no surprise there), and Florida and Georgia.

Offense

If you thought Donovan was bad, Kent State finished 2015 with one of the worst offenses in the country (ranked 126th in total offense with an average of about 13 points a game). The Golden Flashes are looking for improvement there, and with 9 starters returning on offense, they may see some better days in 2016.

The offensive line returns four of five starters and are returning running backs Raekwon James and Nick Holley. But with their standout wide receiver Antwan Dixon out with an illness, they’ll feel that loss.

KSU will be starting three quarterbacks against Penn State: two freshmen, Justin Agner and Mylik Mitchell in the first half, and sophomore George Bollas, listed as third on the depth chart behind the freshmen, in the second half. Bollas is the most experienced, having split time with quarterback Colin Reardon last year, ending the 2015 season with 403 rushing yards, throwing for 756 yards and two touchdowns. But where’s Reardon? At wide receiver for 2016.

Defense

Defensively, Kent State ranked 27th in total defense last year, leading the MAC in sacks and was ranked second in tackles for loss last season. Kent State is expected to be one of the better units in the MAC in 2016, with 8 starters back on defense, and with one of the most solid pass defenses around.

Three players to watch are veterans and first-team All-MAC performers: end Terence Waugh, free safety Nate Holley (Nick’s twin brother) and corner Demetrius Monday. Waugh led the team in tackles for a loss (12) and sacks (9.0) and finished seventh in the nation in sacks per game (0.90). Holley led in tackles (141), and Monday led Kent State cornerbacks with 35 tackles in 2015, led in interceptions (6) and finished seventh in the nation in total interceptions.

Of note: Holley is on the preseason Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, Monday is on the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List, and Waugh is on the Ted Hendricks Watch List.

Special Teams

Returning placekicker Shane Hynes led the team in scoring in 2015 with 34 points, pointing to the rough shape of the Golden Flashes’ offense. Kent State lost their impressive punter Anthony Melchiori, leaving this position up for a true freshman, Derek Adams. Although returners Raekwon James and Ernest Calhoun were consistent, and are back this year, overall, special teams aren’t a strength for Kent State.

Blog

You can read more about the Golden Flashes at Hustle Belt, the SB Nation MAC blog.