October 16, 2009

Flashes eye rebound at EMU

The last five minutes of Saturday's 36-35 loss to Bowling Green likely will haunt the Kent State football team for some time. The Golden Flashes held a 12-point lead before the Falcons rallied for big play after big play to pull out the win.

A demoralized Golden Flashes' team dropped to 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference, but is far from being out of the hunt for their first conference title since 1972. That's the point head coach Doug Martin has been hammering home to his team since they walked off the Dix Stadium turf moments after BG quarterback Tyler Sheehan scored the go-ahead touchdown.

"I think Ball State last year is one of the few teams on the East or the West to ever win the conference undefeated. You're going to lose a game or two and still win this conference," Martin said. "Those are the issues that are important to our football team right now. What we need to be is 2-1 in the conference after Saturday. If we go out and we take care of ourselves emotionally and they get ready to play and we go out there and play with a full heart that will happen. The only thing I'm concerned about is getting our players emotionally ready to play Eastern Michigan."

Physically, the Golden Flashes are confident they can compete with any team in the league; and they have a point. In two conference games they average 32 points and nearly 300 yards of offense per contest. In conference play they lead or are tied for the league lead in two statistical categories (kickoff returns and sacks by) and are top five in 14 others (scoring offense, scoring defense, punting, turnover margin, rushing offense, rushing defense, punt return average, penalties, opponent penalties, fourth down conversions, opponent fourth down conversions, red zone offense, red zone defense and kickoff coverage).

But, mentally, it's a different story.

"I think 99.9-percent of it is emotional and mental with our players," Martin said. "We can't worry about Eastern Michigan. I don't care what their record is or what they've done."

For the record, the Eagles enter Saturday's game 0-5 under first-year head coach Ron English. But, before last week's 56-8 loss to Central Michigan, the Eagles had played competitively in each of their defeats.

"They've got good players and coach English and his staff are doing a really good job of coaching those players," Martin said. "They've been in some tight games this year. They just haven't been able to crack the win column."

Martin realizes the importance of Saturday's game, not because the Golden Flashes need to add another conference win, but because back-to-back losses in conference play could signal an early end to the Flashes' season.

"I think Bill Walsh is one of the best coaches I've ever listened to, been around, heard and everything," Martin said. "He's always said the biggest key to a winning football season is you don't lose two in a row. Particularly when you get in your conference, you cannot lose two games in a row. What he's addressing there is your mental attitude and your emotions and being hung over from a loss, and he's right. That's a real difficult thing to overcome, particularly for a team that's trying to establish a tradition."

For Kent State, a new tradition can be established on Saturday with a win or the tradition of folding after a tough loss can continue. It's up to the players to choose their own path.

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