November 22, 2009

One punch too many

Throughout the 2009 season, the Kent State football team repeatedly has lifted itself off the canvas after suffering knockdown blow after knockdown blow. In the past, the team would have suffered a first round knockout, never able to overcome the best punches from the opposing fighter.

But, this team has been different.

Gone is the glass jaw that led to so may losing seasons.

When starting running back Eugene Jarvis was lost for the season, sophomore Jacquise Terry stepped in-returning from a short stint at wide receiver-and rushed for three 100-yard games in his first five games at the position. Soon though, he'd suffer his own injury that would force him out of the 28-20 loss at Akron.

Later, when Giorgio Morgan's injury proved too difficult to overcome, true freshman Spencer Keith stepped in under center and led the Golden Flashes to three straight wins that put them right back into the race for the Mid-American Conference championship.

And unlike in seasons past, it wasn't just one or two players making plays in tough times.

Keith found many weapons at his disposal, especially freshman receiver Tyshon Goode. The duo has become the most productive quarterback-wide receiver combination at Kent State since Josh Cribbs and Darrell Dowery, Jr. tormented opposing defenses.

But, every fighter has his breaking point. Kent State's came on Saturday at Temple.

The Golden Flashes, holding on to the dream of winning their first MAC title since 1972, led the Owls at halftime, 10-9.

Temple opened the second half with a field goal to take a 12-10 lead. Then, Keith was injured on the second play of Kent State's opening drive of the half and wouldn't return.

Morgan replaced Keith and threw five straight incompletions before his sixth pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown. Two plays later, he was sacked and fumbled the ball away to the Owls.

In between Keith's injury and Morgan's fumble, the Owls had scored on a 71-yard touchdown run and the pick-six. They went on to score 35 more points before Kent State managed a field goal on their way to a 47-13 win.

How many body blows could the Kent State football team absorb before being dropped to the canvas for good? We found out on Saturday.

Every team suffers through injuries. Many have the depth to overcome even major losses. Kent State overcame key injuries. The Golden Flashes responded to adversity on the field too. After the 36-35 loss to Bowling Green, the team didn't fold. Instead, it regrouped, became closer as a unit and rattled off three straight wins.

That final blow-losing Keith on the road against the MAC East's best team-was all the Golden Flashes could take. They fought hard for 10 rounds, winning most of them. But, Keith's separated shoulder knocked the wind out of the team and for the first time all season, the Golden Flashes remained on the canvas.

Gone is the dream of a MAC title. The loss dropped the Flashes to 5-6 with just one game left to play. There's no chance of making good on their coach's promise of a winning season and a bowl bid. But, there is the chance to end the season on a winning note. They can end the 2009 campaign at 6-6, a non-losing season.

They'll have to do it without Keith, as his shoulder injury prematurely ended his freshman season.

Can the Flashes take one more punch? We'll find out on Friday.

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