KENT--Kent State's Senior Day was as bittersweet as the weather it was
played in--clear and sunny, but frigid and windy.
The Golden Flashes walked off the field against Ohio University a winner on
Friday, 28-6, but so too did Doug Martin, who has done as much with
so little as any coach in the Football Bowl Sub-Division, and leaves the program
talented and better than when he first took over, but without much of a direction
Martin, in his seventh year as head coach, announced his resignation six
days before the game, a move that obviously motivated the players he recruited
"We wanted to go out the right way and send these coaches out the right
way, and we went out and had fun," senior buck end Monte Simmons said. "It was a fun atmosphere, and that's the greatest way to
leave this team. [Martin] said, 'I told you guys were like this, all
you needed was a little push.'"
Martin was supportive of the young adults he brought into the program, and
his message all week was this game was about the players, not himself. Associate
Head Coach Jerry McManus said Martin resigning when he did was in
part to take pressure off of the players, especially the seniors.
Following the loss against Temple, in which the Owls won 28-10 while dancing
and appearing much livelier than the Kent State sideline, Martin said he wouldn't
publicly defend his players for their play on the field anymore, rather, they
would do their own talking.
That wasn't Martin abandoning his players; it was his way of letting
them know what they are capable of.
It took a couple of weeks, but his players backed up his words--and did a
little dancing of their own Friday afternoon, despite the below-freezing temperatures.
Fifth-year senior safety Brian Lainhart and his fellow seniors told
the equipment manager before the game, "no heaters, no jackets." Several
of the players came out for warm-ups shirtless, which set the tone for the
afternoon as the Kent State players whooped and hollered from the first whistle
to the last.
"It was passion, not just for the team but the seniors," Simmons
said of the increased liveliness on the sidelines. "Everybody wanted
to leave this team and coach Martin with something good. That really rubbed
off on people, and once one person hits the domino, everything falls into place."
The Golden Flashes, who finished 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference,
had been outscored 111-41 in the last three games through fumbles and missed
opportunities. The tables turned on Friday as the Flashes capitalized on Ohio
mistakes to take a 14-0 lead after senior Cobrani Mixon forced a fumble
in the end zone that Luke Batton recovered for a touchdown and sophomore
quarterback Spencer Keith scored from three yards out on an option
after starting the drive in Bobcats territory.
Eugene Jarvis, technically playing in his second Senior Day, broke
the game open early in the fourth quarter on a nifty 26-yard touchdown run
that extended Kent State's lead to 21-6. The score was Jarvis' 26th
rushing touchdown and 30th total touchdown, good enough to move him into sixth
and fifth place on KSU's all-time touchdown lists, respectively.
Earlier in the third quarter, Jarvis passed Joshua Cribbs for third all-time
on Kent State's list of career rushing leaders. He finished the day with
111 yards to give him to give him 55 more than Cribbs' 3,670 yards.
"I'm speechless," a gloomy Jarvis said after the game. "To
see the way we came out to play is remarkable."
On the energy level displayed, McManus said, "At other places, they
may have said, 'I can't wait to get this game over with.' It
shows you the character of kids we have recruited to play football here at
Kent State, and that's refreshing."
Two seniors who had big days were safety Dan Hartman, who picked
off quarterback Boo Jackson twice, and Mixon, who recorded eight tackles, forced
and recovered a fumble and had one sack and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Also done
with the Golden Flashes is linebacker Howard Bowens, who played well
on special teams all season and contributed at linebacker.
All in all, Ohio University didn't play well. Fumbles, dropped passes
and mishaps plagued the Bobcats all day. Some of it was due to the superb pressure
KSU's front seven got on Jackson, some of it because of Jarvis weaving
and spinning his way to a 100-yard rushing day, some of it to costly mistakes
on Ohio's part.
But Kent State and the seniors came to the stadium with a different energy,
and it showed. Every senior on the roster echoed what Martin preached during
his seven years in Kent--give 100-percent until the very end.
As the clock ticked to 0:00, Martin left the field on his players' shoulders,
smiling and covered in ice-cold Gatorade.
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