Kent State kicks off the 2009 season on Thursday when the Golden Flashes host Coastal Carolina at 7:00 p.m. at Dix Stadium.
The Golden Flashes ended the 2008 season just 4-8, but defeated Mid-American Conference champion Buffalo, 24-21, in the season's final week.
The Chanticleers ended last year 6-6, but struggled to a 1-4 record in the Big South. They lost their final game of the 2008 season, 24-0, to Charleston Southern and haven't scored since the second quarter of their 21-13 win over Presbyterian on Nov. 15, 2008.
Here's a look at how both teams match-up:
KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES
COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS
Golden Flashes allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 63-percent
of their passes last season. Three of the four starters return including
safety Brian Lainhart, who led the team with six interceptions.
Zach MacDowallthrew for over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in his
first season at Coastal Carolina. Two of his top three targets return and the
Chanticleers added former Michigan State tight end David Duran.
transfer Cobrani Mixon returns after leading this
unit with 73 tackles last season while the rest of the returners combined
for 60 tackles last season. Despite the limited production, there's
plenty of experience here.
Eric O'Neal led the Chanticleers with 405 yards rushing on 79
carries. He's been banged up in camp, but should get the start. If he
can't go, or can't get the job done, look for freshman Jeremy Height
to get the ball.
defensive end Kevin Hogan--who needs just one sack to move into
second all-time at Kent State--leads an undersized defensive line that
struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks last season. It could be
a long day if the Flashes can't force Coastal into a one-dimensional
offensive line has combined to start 67 games. Center Ryan Boehm is a preseason all-Big South Conference selection. It's
a big unit--the line averages over 6-foot-3, 304 pounds per man. That
should help MacDowall find an open receiver and O'Neal and Height with
plenty of open holes to run through.
sophomore Giorgio Morgan will make the third start
of his career. Two years ago he threw for 247 yards and three scores
in a loss to MAC
champion Central Michigan before breaking his leg the following week.
He redshirted last year. Morgan has a big arm, but to have success,
he will need consistent play out of his line and wide receivers.
Keon Cunningham led all Coastal Carolina defensive backs with 42 tackles
and three picks...and he isn't expected to start. Last season, CCU
ranked first in the Big
South in pass defense. Was it talent or an inability to shut down
the run? Giorgio Morgan and Co. will find out Thursday night. The Chants
likely will bring a lot of pressure to confuse Morgan, forcing this unit
to play well.
senior Eugene Jarvis is Kent State's most consistent
offensive threat. But, he can't do it alone. The Flashes have plenty
of depth with
Andre Flowers and freshman speedster Dri Archer. Coastal
will focus on stopping Jarvis. Can the Chanticleers succeed where so
many other teams have failed?
defense finished fifth in the Big South in rush defense, but its linebackers
were an active group. Junior Derrick Frasier posted 67 tackles
and classmate Chris Walls made 58 stops. They'll
need to play with their heads on a swivel to keep track of Jarvis, who
often disappears behind his offensive linemen. If this unit can help
slow Jarvis down, the Chanticleers have a chance to shut down the Flashes
center Chris Anzevino leads a relatively young group of offensive
linemen. Last fall, the Flashes ranked 11th nationally in rushing. But,
the Flashes have struggled in their pass protection. Coastal likes to
blitz, so protecting Morgan must be a priority for this group.
Carolina's weakness last season was stopping opponents from running the
football. They'll find out early if they made any improvement as they'll
be tested by last season's 11th best rushing team. Defensive tackle
Robert Balkunas and his line mates aren't big, but
they are quick. Like the linebackers, they'll need to keep an eye on
Jarvis at all times.
State has struggled in all facets of special teams. The Flashes focused
on the unit in the offseason, and the results
so far have been positive. They possess game breakers in the return units
and their punting has been solid. After two impressive scrimmage performances,
freshman Freddy Cortez won the place kicking duties. Can
he maintain that consistency when the games count? The Flashes also have
to limit return yardage to keep field position in their favor.
Kent State, Coastal Carolina has had problems on special
teams. They managed to convert just 11-of-22 field goal attempts and
86-percent of PATs. But, both place kicker
Justin Durham and punter Ben Erdman, a preseason
all-Big South selection,
return and the Chanticleers hope that experience shows up in the
kicking game. Coastal's biggest disadantage--less scholarship players
than their hosts--could show up in special teams, where one big play
could decide the game.
State struggled to defend against the pass last season; Coastal
Carolina possesses a veteran quarterback with a good grasp of the offense.
struggled against the rush last season; Kent State possesses one of
the most productive running backs in the nation. Both teams struggled
in special teams, and that's likely where the game's biggest plays
will be made.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Kent State's offensive line must protect quarterback Giorgio Morgan
against Coastal Carolina's blitz packages.
Eugene Jarvis must get his touches--eiter carrying the football
or in the passing game.
Coastal Carolina's secondary can't allow big plays in the passing
The Golden Flashes can't allow Coastal Carolina to have a big game
Special teams will play a big role in this game. Which team makes the