October 2, 2009

PREVIEW: KSU travels to Baylor

Kent State (2-2, 1-0 MAC) at Baylor (2-1, 0-0 BIG 12)

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 - 7:00 p.m. EST

Floyd Casey Stadium (50,000/Prestige Turf) - Waco, Texas

Radio: WNIR 100.1 FM (Tom Linder, Rob Polinsky & Ty Linder)

Television: FSN Big 12 Footprint - Internet: None


Kent State completes the non-conference portion of its schedule
on Saturday with a trip to Waco, Texas to face the Baylor Bears. The trip to
Texas is the first in the history of the Kent State program and just the second
time the Golden Flashes will play a team from the Lone Star State. The first,
a 51-24 win over UTEP at Dix Stadium, came in 1985.


Saturday's game is the first meeting between the Golden Flashes and
Bears.


This is the second game against the Big 12 for the Golden Flashes. They lost
at home to Iowa State, 34-14, on Sept. 19. The Golden Flashes are 2-8 all-time
against current members of the Big 12. The Flashes are 2-6 on the road in those
games.


A win gives the Golden Flashes back-to-back victories in the same season for
the first time since winning five straight in 2006.


Baylor's 19 returning starters (17 offense and defense plus two kickers)
represent the school's most since 1969, when head coach Bill Beall inherited
20 returning starters (10 offense, 10 defense) in his first season in Waco.
The only other BU team to bring back more than 18 starters over the last 40
years was Grant Teaff's 1978 squad that returned 19
(17 offense & defense and two kickers).






TEAM QUICK FACTS



  • Five Bears appear on national award watch lists: P Derek Epperson (Guy), QB Robert Griffin (Manning, O'Brien, Maxwell),
    FS Jordan Lake (Thorpe), LB Joe Pawelek (Bednarik,
    Lombardi, Lott, Nagurski) and C J.D. Walton (Lombardi, Outland,
    Rimington).

  • Pawelek will start his 37th consecutive game Saturday against Kent
    State, the longest such streak

    by a Baylor player (non-special teams) since Maurice Lane ended his
    career in 2005 with a school-record 45 consecutive starts. Pawelek
    is tied for 14th nationally with 10.8 tackles per game; he ranks
    second in the Big 12. Pawelek enters the Kent State game with 349
    career tackles,
    most among active FBS players. He also leads the nation with 190
    career assisted tackles and ranks sixth nationally with 8.8 tackles
    per game
    on his career. He needs one interception to become the 13th player
    in Baylor history to amass at least 10 career interceptions.

  • LB Antonio Jones leads the Big 12 and ranks 13th nationally with 11.0 tackles
    per game.

  • RB Jay Finley needs 216 yards to become the
    15th player in Baylor history to reach 1,500 career rushing yards. Finley has rushed for 90-plus yards in four straight
    games with three 100-yard outings in that span.

  • Epperson's career
    punting average (41.7 ypp) ranks 15th nationally among active FBS
    players.

  • Lake is tied for fourth nationally among active FBS players
    with seven career forced fumbles. He ranks fifth nationally in career
    solo tackles
    per game (4.7) and 19th nationally in career total tackles
    per game (7.6).



  • Sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan returned
    as the starter last Saturday against Miami, playing a half before
    tweaking his injured ankle. The coaches will continue to evaluate his
    status throughout
    practice this week.

  • True freshman quarterback Spencer Keith leads the MAC and
    is 34th nationally with a 149.40 passer rating. In roughly eight quarters
    of action, he has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 381 yards
    and four TDs.

  • Sophomore Jacquise Terry may have emerged as the replacement
    for Eugene Jarvis after rushing for 103 yards on 15 carries
    (6.9 ypc) in Saturday's win against Miami.

  • With a late pick against Miami, junior free safety Brian Lainhart now has 10 interceptions in the last 11 games dating back to Oct.
    4, 2008. His 12 career interceptions are tied for sixth in KSU annals.

  • Junior middle linebacker Cobrani Mixon continues to shine,
    leading the team with 40 tackles (22 solo) and 5.0 TFL. His 10.0
    tackles per game are tied for fourth in the MAC and tied for 21st nationally.






















KENT
STATE GOLDEN FLASHES
EDGE
BAYLOR
BEARS
SECONDARY
PASSING ATTACK

After
giving up 337 passing yards to Miami last weekend, the Kent State defense
837 passing yards and five touchdowns through the air in four games.Opposing
quarterbacks have completed just over 54-percent of their passes. Kent
State's top player in the secondary is junior safety Brian Lainhart,
who now has an interception in 10 of his last 11 games. Lainhart is
also second on the team with 29 tackles. Sophomore Josh Pleasant
is third on the team in tackles with 27 and he has posted a team-high
six passes defended. Along with junior strong safety Dan Hartman,
who has 19 tackles, the Golden Flashes' secondary accounts for three
of the team's top four tacklers. Hartman has the team's only other
interception. If Kent State hopes to win this game, the secondary will
have to play better than it did against Miami. That won't be easy considering
Baylor's offense includes four wide receivers.




A
week ago, the Bears had one of the most dangerous weapons in all of college
football in quarterback Robert Griffin.The reigning Big 12 Freshman
of the Year averaged 186 yards of offense per game. But, a knee injury
sidelined him for the rest of the season. Senior Blake Szymanski is
Griffin's backup, but he too has suffered an injury. With 13 career starts,
Szymanski brings a wealth of experience to the position;
though he's only throw five passes this season. For his career,
he has completed 335-of-594 passes for 3,691 yards and 27 touchdowns.
The Bears use a four-wide receiver set. Their top receiver is Kendall Wright with 15 catches for 189 yards and two scores. David Gettis
trails closely with 13 catches for 167 yards and two scores. Tight end
Justin Akers Has four catches for 36 yards. Wright and Griffin
were freshman All-Americans last season.
LINEBACKERS
GROUND ATTACK

The
Golden Flashes have held opponents under 100 yards rushing just one time
this season; that was in week one against Coastal Carolina. Since then,
the Flashes have allowed 126, 234 and 215 rushing yards. While Cobrani Mixon leads the team with 40 tackles and five tackles for loss,
the rest of the linebacker corps has struggled to produce. Dorian Wood has 15 tackles, good for sixth on the team. Do the Flashes
have the speed at the position to track down Baylor's game breakers?

With
three players--one being wide receiver Kendall Wright--that average over
nine yards per carry, the Bears aren't short on game breakers
at the position. Jay Finley leads the team with
212 yards on just 22 carries. Jarred Salubi has just seven carries
but
has rushed for 131
yards. Both
have one touchdown
to their credit while Salubi is third on the team with five receptions
for 41 yards. Baylor's speed here will test the Golden Flashes, especially
in the second level where one missed tackle turns into a touchdown.
DEFENSIVE LINE
OFFENSIVE LINE

Kent
State has recorded eight sacks this season. But, none of those sacks
came against Iowa State, the only other Big 12 team on the Flashes' schedule.
To keep Szymanskiand the Baylor running backs from having big days, the
defensive line must find a way to pressure the passer and meet the running
backs in the gaps. If the defensive line is dominated, the Bears likely
will have much success on offense. Junior Monte Simmons leads
the unit with 16 tackles and he has a team-high 2 1/2 sacks. Senior Kevin Hogan has posted 2 1/2 tackles for loss.

With
an offensive line that averages nearly 6-foot-4 and 298 pounds per man,
it's easy to see why Baylor's running backs have found so much daylight.
The Bears aren't only big up front, they are experienced. They'll line
up two seniors a junior and a pair of sophomores. Center J.D. Walton is
one of the best in the business. He's a candidate for three national
awards: the Lombardi, Outland and Rimington. With that much beef and
talent up front, the Golden Flashes likely will struggle to get to the
passer, which is bad news for a secondary that has given up plenty of
yards through the air.
PASSING ATTACK
SECONDARY

The
Golden Flashes' passing attack has been inconsistent at best. In week
one, a 18-0 win over Coastal Carolina, the Flashes threw 35 passes
for 201 yards. The next week they threw for 119 yards followed by 255
against Iowa State. Last week they threw just 11 passes for 77 yards.
For Kent State to move the ball, quarterbacks Giorgio Morgan and Spencer Keith must find a way to get the ball to the wide
receivers down field. Baylor has too much speed in the secondary to
rely on bubble screens and the perimeter passing game. The Flashes
have to find a way to use the middle of the field to soften the Bears'
defense.

With
one of the best defensive backs in the nation, it's easy to see why Baylor
allows just 135 passing yards per game. Free safety Jordan Lake,
who has 11 tackles, is a candidate for the Thorpe Award. He's joined
in the defensive backfield by Jeremy Williams (15 tackles),
Tim Atchison (9 tackles) and Clifton Odom (5 tackles).
The Bears have picked off a total of five passes and broke up four
others. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 60-percent of their
passes but have averaged just 4.8 yards per pass play and 7.9 yards
per completed pass. There isn't much run-after-catch yardage available.


GROUND ATTACK
LINEBACKERS

The
Golden Flashes are just as inconsistent running the football as they
are at passing it. In four games, the team has been held under 100 rushing
yards twice, though the team seems to have broken out a little bit against
Miami with 41 carries for 173 yards and a touchdown. Credit sophomore
Jacquise Terry with much of that success as he rushed for a
career-high 103 yards in the game. With Andre Flowers not making
the trip, the bulk of the workload falls on Terry's shoulders. Freshman
Dri Archer likely will contribute and Alan Vanderink
could see some playing time as well.

Joe Pawelek (32 tackles) is one of the best in the business. Antonio Jones (33 tackles) is the Big 12's leader in tackles. Add in Antonio Johnson, who has 23 tackles, and you have one formidable linebacker
corps. Pawelek is on the watch list for the Bednarik,
Lombardi, Lott and Nagurski Awards. He's also the FBS' returning leader
in career tackles. Between the three linebackers, Baylor has 5 1/2 tackles
for loss and 4 1/2 sacks as well as three quarterback hurries. The linebackers
have accounted for 34.6-percent of all the Bears' tackles this season.
OFFENSIVE LINE
DEFENSIVE LINE

Kent
State's offensive line continues to take on a different look each week.
Eight different players have started at least one game this season for
the Golden Flashes. With starting guard Mike Fay again sidelined
by injury, senior Dante Campbell will make his third start of
the season. The Flashes are young at the position with one fifth-year
senior, one junior, one sophomore and a redshirt freshman and true freshman
getting the starting nod.

With
two 300-pounders anchoring the middle of the defensive line, and an outstanding
corps of linebackers, the Bears have been stout against the rush.
They also have managed to apply plenty of pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
The defensive line has accounted for 3 1/2 of the Bears' eight sacks
and 10 of the team's 15 quarterback hurries. DT Phil Taylor was named the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year.
SPECIAL TEAMS
SPECIAL TEAMS

If
there's one area where the Golden Flashes have improved by leaps and
bounds, it's on special teams. They Flashes still aren't perfect, but
they're better--a lot better. Freshman Freddy Cortez was 3-for-3
on field goal attempts last week, and even kicked a game-clinching three-pointer
with 1:19 left in the game. Punter Matt Rinehart has averaged
38.0 yards per punt--that's saying something after his 5-yarder last
week following a bad snap that forced him to kick nearly 40 yards behind
the line of
scrimmage. The Flashes also have seen a boost in the return game thanks
to Anthony Bowman and his 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown
against Miami.

Baylor
has won plenty of field position battles, mainly because of the punting
done by Derek Epperson punting average of 41.7 yards per punt ranks 15th nationally among
active FBS players. Epperson is on the Ray Guy Award watch list.
This season, Epperson has averaged 46.4 yards per punt with two landing
inside the 20. The Bears have yet to return a kick for a touchdown,
but Terrance Williams has a 51 yard return and David Gettis has returned one 40 yards. Williams also has a 25-yard
punt return to his credit. The Bears have allowed just 21.9 yards
per kickoff return, but 20.2 yards per punt return.


COACHING  
COACHING
Doug Martin (Kentucky '85) is in his sixth season as a head coach, owning
a 21-41 (.339) record at the helm of the Golden Flashes. He was promoted
to head coach March 1, 2004, after serving as Kent Statešs offensive
coordinator in 2003.
Art Briles (Texas Tech '79) is 6-9 in his second season at Baylor and 40-37
in his seventh season overall. He became the 25th head coach in the program's
history on Nov. 28, 2007 after spending the previous five seasons at
Houston.

SUMMARY: Baylor
holds the advantage in talent, depth, speed and experience. The Bears
are far from perfect, though, as they committed three turnovers in
a 30-22 loss to Connecticut on Sept. 19. They'll also play without
starting quarterback Robert Griffin and kick returner/defensive
back Mikail Baker. How will they respond to that adversity?
Also a factor is the health of backup Blake Szymanski, who
is listed as day-to-day. If he can't play, the Bears likely turn
to a freshman. How will he handle his first career start? Even if
the Bears struggle on offense, their defense is good enough to keep
Baylor in the game. The front seven is as dominant a unit as the
Golden Flashes will see all season. That means the Flashes have to
find a way to generate consistent offense, something they haven't
done all season.


BAYLOR'S KEYS TO THE GAME:



  1. Avoid an emotional letdown after the loss of Griffin at quarterback.
    If Szymanski plays, the Bears have plenty of experience at the
    position. If he doesn't, they have other weapons, including game
    breakers at running back and a huge offensive line to clear holes
    for those backs to run through.

  2. Dominate field position by protecting the football and keeping the
    Golden Flashes pinned deep in their own territory. Force Kent State
    to drive the length of the field to score.

  3. Avoid big plays on special teams. Special teams is an area where even
    a team at a physical disadvantage can still find ways to make big
    plays. If Baylor can avoid big returns by the Kent State special
    teams units, they likely will win the game.

KENT STATE'S KEYS TO THE GAME:



  1. Keep the score close into the fourth quarter, then go for the win.

  2. The defense can't allow explosion plays. Force Baylor to sustain
    drives, which chews up game clock and should keep the Bears from
    running away with the game early.

  3. Find an offense. Running the ball won't be easy against Baylor's front
    seven. The Bears are going to pressure the quarterbacks. Use screens
    and the tight ends to beat the pressure and loosen up the defense.


PREDICTION:
BAYLOR 38, KENT STATE 10

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