2018 RECORD: 2-10 overall (1-7 in MAC play)
HEAD COACH: Sean Lewis (second season)
2019 PRESEASON POLL: Fourth in the Eastern Division
When you look back at Kent State in 2018. One thing was different than the past few seasons: the Flashes were a more competitive football team. Starting with the opener at Illinois, where they held a lead deep into the third quarter before falling to the Fighting Illini, Kent State came to play every time out.
Yes, KSU took its . . .
In fact, in the second half of the season the only game in which KSU was not competitive was the 48-20 loss at Buffalo. Otherwise the Flashes held their own in the snow against Toledo and against bowl bound Eastern Michigan.
With year two of the Sean Lewis approaching, most people look for improvement from two victories a season ago.
Here's more on the Flashes . . .
2018 Stats (all games/MAC rank)
Scoring offense: 23.9 ppg (9th MAC)
Scoring defense: 36.7 ppg (11th MAC)
Total offense: 383.6 ypg (6th MAC)
Total defense: 467.2 ypg (12th MAC)
Turnover margin: minus 1 (8th MAC)
➤➤ The ‘Flash First’ offense implemented by Lewis and offensive coordinator Andrew Sounder showed improvement over 2017 -- both yardage-wise as well as on the scoreboard as KSU averaged 383 yards and 23 points pregame -- a far cry better than 2017.
➤➤ The man at the on-field helm of the offense is Woody Barrett, redshirt junior who had a solid season both with his arm and with his feet. He completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 2,339 yards with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 503 yards with seven additional scores. "He learned some valuable lessons last year with his in-game experience," said Lewis, who noted Barrett will be even more comfortable in the Flashes offense this time around.
➤➤ After Barrett, the running game is in the capable hands of senior Jo-El Shaw. He registered 657 yards on the ground (second on the team) with seven touchdowns. He also made nine catches for 84 yards and a pair of scores. Look for senior Will Matthews to spell Shaw at times.
➤➤ The receivers are led by senior Mike Carrigan, who had 45 receptions for 597 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Antwon Dixon led the receiving corps with 52 catches for 532 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Isiah McKoy notched 42 catches for 423 yards and three touchdowns.
➤➤ All five starters return along the offensive line, led by senior C Nate Warnock and Jamil Vlaud. Add senior LT Bryce Gibbs, sophomore Julian Sams, along with junior RG junior Nathan Monnin for a unit that will try to improve on its protections. The line allowed 43 sacks a season ago, with Barrett scrambling on many occasions.
➤➤ The KSU defense, under defensive coordinator Tom Kaufman, brings back six starters led by senior LB Matt Bahr. He had 91 total tackles a season ago (50 solo), along with with three sacks and an interception. Junior DB Keith Sherald Jr also had 91 total stops (29 solo), adding three sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
➤➤ Fifth-year senior LB Nick Faulkner should also be a key contributor after totaling total tackles a season ago with an interception. The defensive secondary is led by Sherald (S),, senior CB Jamal Parker (83 tackles, two forced fumbles) and junior S Elvin Hines, who had 41 tackles and an interception.
The Flashes will bring back sophomore Matthew Trickett for his second season to handle punts and place kicking. As a freshman a season ago, Trickett converted 24 of 27 field goals and 33 of 34 extra points. He also averaged 38.7 yards per punt after doing double duty down the stretch. The return game is led by Shaw on kick returns and senior Kavious Price on punt returns.
➤➤ The non-conference schedule is, in a word, brutal!! It begins at Arizona State on August 29, marking the the first time KSU faces an opponent from the PAC-12 conference. Add to that trips to Auburn and Wisconsin.
➤➤ MAC plays opens at home against Bowling Green on September 21st then a trip to arch rival Akron in November. Their biggest conference games are on the road at Ohio and Toledo while they have Miami, Buffalo, and Eastern Michigan coming into Dix Stadium.
➤➤ COACH LEWIS ON CONFIDENCE GAINED FROM 2018's CLOSE LOSSES. "Our kids ... really know that they can win those games. ... There is a sense of belief (now)."
If the Flashes can get through non-conference play in reasonably healthy shape, they should be able to reap some rewards of having a year’s experience under Lewis, as well as some talent infusion.
The offense has already shown improvement, but the defense needs to move up after finishing last among teams in total yards and next-to-last in scoring defense.