This Kent State football team is different, and they prove it every week

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It is official.

After Friday's 28-6 victory over Ohio lifted the Golden Flashes' record to 11-1, the 2012 Kent State football team became the greatest since the program first put on leather helmets in 1914.

The Flashes had already secured the Mid-American Conference's East Division championship and a berth into the MAC Championship Game next week against Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. at Ford Field in Detroit.

For me personally, the season has been wondrous to behold. And I have formed an attachment to this squad.

No, I didn't go to Kent.

As a journalist, I am trained to remain unbiased, but this season became something different.

Second-year head coach Darrell Hazell recognized it probably earlier than anyone else.

Hazell recounted during Friday's postgame press conference that he initially sensed a turnaround in the team's attitude during a preseason meeting in August.

First came a win over Towson. What we now know was only a hiccup against Kentucky in the second week has now been followed by a 10-game winning streak with victories over Buffalo, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Army, Western Michigan, Rutgers, Akron, Miami, Bowling Green and now Ohio.

The Golden Flashes entered Friday's game ranked No. 23 in the country in the Associated Press poll and could find themselves higher than that when the new poll is released on Sunday night.

With that national spotlight, many have watched firsthand the bond growing within this team. The confidence building and the pride being restored on campus.

"There is a sense of accomplishment as the season wore on," said senior linebacker C.J. Malauulu. "Here at home, we protected the house five times against good teams, something I'm proud to be part of this season. We don't get too tense about the record. We're loose. Our coaches do a good job of stressing one game at a time."

This week's "one game" saw Malauulu immediately set the tone in the first quarter.

First, he forced a fumble on the 50-yard line that teammate Luke Wollet picked up and raced to the end zone for the first touchdown at the 13:02 mark.

After the KSU offense scored when sophomore running back Trayion Durham sprung across the goal line, the table was set for Malauulu to deliver an early knockout punch.

On the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff to Ohio, Malauulu intercepted a Tyler Tettleton pass at the Ohio 35. He was moving to his left as the ball came into his hands and he saw the left sideline open. A quick burst of energy moved him to the corner and a leap to knock over the pylon for the touchdown at 5:59 gave the Flashes a 21-0 lead and an emotional lift of impending victory.

"I thought our defense played phenomenal," said Hazell. "They created points, gave us short fields and kept Ohio out of the end zone.

"The big thing is how proud I am of our football team. The coaches and players keep battling no matter what the circumstances. We find a way to come out on the right side," Hazell said.

That defense that Hazell praised so highly starts seven seniors, who were playing in their final home game of the career inside Dix Stadium on Friday.

n Nose tackle Dana Brown, who is a 6-foot, 290-pound lineman that is determined to make the quarterback feel his presence.

n Linebackers Jake Dooley (6-2, 240), Luke Batton (5-11, 230) and Malauulu solidify the defense.

n Defensive backs Sidney Saulter (6-0, 182), Norman Wolfe (5-8, 165 and Leon Green (5-11, 204) have spent the entire season making big play after big play.

The seniors, acting as the team's nucleus, held Ohio (8-4) to six points on Friday, which was a new season low for a Bobcats team that spent part of this season in the AP Top 25 poll after opening the year with a victory over Penn State and not losing until the eighth week of the season.

With a season to remember, Malauulu spoke of his teammates, his friends that he also will never forget.

"These guys will be may friends forever," he said.

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  • Don't forget the Golf team....5th in the nation.

  • I've been going to games my entire life, so seeing this is nothing short of amazing, especially on the heels of the baseball team in the College World Series plus all the developments going on in Kent on and off campus. I mean, I expected KSU to be competitive this year, but never 11-1. Just FYI, the first KSU football season was 1920, not 1914. 1914 was the first year of the baseball team (the "Normal Nine"), Kent's oldest intercollegiate sport. Men's basketball started in 1913, but didn't compete intercollegiately until 1915.