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Know Your Foe Week 3: Kent State Golden Flashes

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They’re hoping for a more golden year in 2018

NCAA Football: Kent State at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Kent State University

Location: Kent, Ohio
Enrollment: 39,367 (undergraduates and post graduates)

Kent State Football Facts

Home Stadium: Dix Stadium (Capacity 25,319)
Head Coach: Sean Lewis, 1st season, 1-1 (.500)
Conference: Mid American Conference (East Division)
Overall Bowl Record: 0-3 (.0)
Conference Titles: 1

Series History

First Game: November 6, 1965 (Penn State won, 21-6)
Last Game: September 3, 2016 (Penn State won, 33-13)
Overall: Penn State leads 5-0
Current Streak: Penn State, 5

Last Season (2-10 overall, 1-7 MAC)

In 2017, the Kent State Golden Flashes were led by fifth-year head coach Paul Haynes, and had a rough season with just two wins overall against Howard University and Miami of Ohio, and one win in the MAC, finishing last in the East Division of the conference.

In August, Haynes took a medical leave of absence, returning after two games due to prostate cancer treatments, but in November, one day after the Flashes’ final game of the season against Akron, the school fired Haynes after five losing seasons.

Kent State hired Sean Lewis, the former co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Syracuse, and a former kick returner and tight end at Wisconsin, as their new head coach. He’s the youngest FBS head coach in the nation at the age of 31. The team also hired a new defensive coordinator and associate head coach, Tom Kaufman, and a new offensive coordinator, Andrew Sowder.

Recruiting and Offseason

The Kent State Golden Flashes’ 2018 class ranks as the nation’s 100th recruiting class (fifth in the MAC) as compared to Penn State’s 2018 class, ranked at sixth in the nation and second in the Big10 (per 247 Sports).

Last Week

After a season-opener loss 31-24 to Illinois, the Kent State Golden Flashes defeated the Howard University Bisons 54-14 this weekend. Quarterback Woody Barrett was 13 of 27 for 156 yards and one touchdown and one interception.

Kent State mostly ran the ball with Jo-el Shaw rushing for 12 carries, 105 yards and three touchdowns and Justin Rankin rushing for 12 carries and 147 yards including a 61-yard touchdown run. Isaiah McKoy had four receptions for 74 yards and one score. On defense, Matt Bahr had eight tackles and one interception.

Offense

The Golden Flashes offense was neither golden nor flashy last year, finishing No. 127 in total offense in 2017. Their offense really has nowhere to go but up, and that’s possible with Kent State returning several key players and adding a few new ones.

Starting quarterback Woody Barrett was a transfer from JUCO last year (and a former Auburn player), and has already racked up three passing and two rushing touchdowns for 2018. So far in two games he’s completed 41 of 68 for 426 yards (60.3%) and made 28 rushing attempts for 135 yards.

Backup quarterback Dustin Crum, if he gets into any games, is a dual threat player who last year ended up the third best rusher for the team with 85 attempts for 310 yards and one touchdown.

Kent State’s top target in the air so far this year has been Raekwon James (seven receptions for 76 yards in two games). But watch for Justin Rankin (Kent State’s top running back) who also led the team in receptions last year (42 for 311 yards). Keep an eye on back Trey Harrell, who had 18 receptions for 337 yards and one touchdown in 2017 and returning junior Mike Carrigan (15 kick returns for 265 yards last year). Receiver Isaiah McKoy had 4 receptions for 74 yards and one score last week alone.

Standout junior Mandela Lawrence-Burke, who as a safety last year finished second on the team in tackles with 76, moved to receiver this season.

Besides quarterback Barrett who leads the team in rushing this year, Justin Rankin, the junior running back, is second on the team this season with 27 attempts for 188 yards and one rushing touchdown. Also keep an eye on JUCO transfer Jo-El Shaw (three touchdowns last week) and Will Mathews who returns after injury for most of 2017.

Kent State does return three players on the offensive line, but that unit remains their weakest position, giving up 45 sacks in 2017.

Defense

In 2017, Kent State was 77th in total defense, 113thin rushing defense and 111thin scoring defense in FBS. They’re going to rely on a few key returners to try to improve this year, especially linebacker Jim Jones, the 2017 top pass rusher, and a first-team All-MAC player last year who led the Golden Flashes in tackles (98) and sacks (6) in 2017. Also keep an eye on senior linebacker Matt Bahr who has already racked up 18 tackles this season after missing a good deal of the 2017 season due to injury.

Defensive tackle Theo Majette returns (17 tackles last year) along with senior defensive end Theo Eboigbe (39 tackles last year), junior end Nick Faulkner (28 tackles last year) and senior tackle Kalil Morris.

Junior defensive back / nickelback Jamal Parker returns, after having a 57 tackle season in 2017.

Former safety Mandela Lawrence Burke moved from safety to wide receiver, leaving senior safety Juantez McRae (30 tackles last year) along with sophomore Elvis Hines (18 tackles last year).

Cornerback Keith Sherald is one to watch with 10 tackles this year.

Special Teams

Kent State returns one of the top punters in the nation with junior Derek Adams, who earned second-team All-MAC accolades last year and who averaged 43.6 yards per punt, but he missed the last game for unknown reasons, with sophomore Grant Urenovitch starting.

On the kicking side, freshman Matthew Trickett won the job and has been 100% on extra points and field goals this season.

The Golden Flashes have Justin Rankin on kick return duties along with Jo-El Shaw, and has Zaquon Tyson (who missed most of last year due to injury) on punt returns.

Blog

Check out more about Kent State football at Hustle Belt, the MAC conference SB Nation blog.