So what was Kent State’s reward for winning its biggest football game in 40 years on Saturday?
For capturing the program’s first Mid-American Conference title of any kind since 1972?
For earning their school-record 10th victory of the season by increasing their record winning streak to nine games with a thrilling 31-24 triumph at Bowling Green?
A 6:15 a.m. Monday morning practice.
Talk about crashing back to reality.
“At 6:15 the horn went off, and we went for an hour,” said Flashes coach Darrell Hazell. “I thought we got a lot done in that quick hour.”
Was Hazell trying to send some sort of message to keep his team focused on its last regular season game on Friday against Ohio, and not looking forward to the Nov. 30 MAC Championship Game against Northern Illinois?
If so, he wouldn’t admit it.
“This is a huge class day for us, where our class schedule goes form 7:45 a.m. to 9 tonight,” he explained. “It was hard to get the majority of our players in practice throughout the course of the day, so I thought we needed to get out there and run around.
“It’s not something I’d ordinarily do. We’re in a short-week situation, and with Thanksgiving. This was like our Tuesday practice and tomorrow will be our Wednesday practice, then we’ll back off (on Thursday).”
Sophomore tailback Trayion Durham, who left in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against the Falcons with a hip injury, practiced some on Monday morning, according to Hazell.
“He’s got a little bit of a hip-pointer,” said Hazell. “I think he should be ready on Friday.”
Is Hazell considering resting banged-up players like Durham on Friday, since the MAC East Division title has already been clinched?
“We’re gonna do everything we can to win this football game,” said Hazell.
ARCHER RELIVES SENSATIONAL RUN
Kent State junior speedster Dri Archer, who was named MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-high 241 yards in Saturday’s win at Bowling Green, was asked to recall his spine-tingling 74-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that has been replayed hundreds of time on highlight shows nationwide.
“They were bringing a blitz on the right side, and Spencer (senior quarterback Spencer Keith) made a great check,” said Archer. “I hit a zone read, the linebacker stepped up in the hole and I just gave him a quick move and broke outside. I saw (senior wide receiver) Eric Adeyemi blocking on the outside, blocking the corner. I ran to his side and someone jumped on my back, and he just flipped over my back. I realized I was still up and just cut across the field, and I saw Spencer — he was my lead blocker into the end zone.”
What was it like for Archer himself to watch the run on replay?
“I’m thinking like, ‘Wow, did that really happen?’ It catches me off-guard sometimes some of the things I do,” he smiled.
Archer, who has now rushed for 1,284 yards and averages a whopping 10.3 yards per rush, now has four touchdown runs of 60 yards or more this season. Of his 169 touches, 36 plays have gone for 20 yards or more and 64 have covered 10 yards or more. Last year Kent State only had 21 plays of 20 or more yards the entire season, including only four in the first half of the year.
Archer readily admits that he never saw this much success coming.
“I’ve been very surprised,” he said. “I didn’t think any of this stuff was possible.”
Kent State freshman Anthony Melchiori was also honored by the MAC as East Division Special Teams Player of the Week.
The former Aurora High School star pinned three punts inside the 20-yard line against the Falcons. None of his six punts resulted in a Bowling Green scoring drive. He had a 56-yard punt in the first quarter and, for the eighth time in 11 games, opponents did not finish with positive punt return yards against him.
Behind Melchiori’s right leg, the Golden Flashes rank sixth in the nation in net punting at 40.8 yards per kick. He ranks third in the MAC with a 42.6-yard average.
HAZELL A COACH OF YEAR CANDIDATE
Hazell is one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year Award.
Other semifinalists include MAC Championship Game opponent Dave Doeren of Northern Illinois, along with Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech, Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, Chip Kelly of Oregon State, Mike MacIntyre of San Jose State, Urban Meyer of Ohio State, Jim Mora of UCLA, Will Muschamp of Florida, Bill O’Brien of Penn State, Mark Richt of Georgia, Mike Riley of Oregon State, David Shaw of Stanford, Bill Snyder of Kansas State, Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M and Dabo Swinney of Clemson.