Kent State needs to overcome road woes

By Caleb Wilfinger

For the Mirror

It has been nearly two years since Kent State has won a true road game.

The last time that the Golden Flashes picked up a win away from home was in October of 2016, when they defeated Central Michigan as part of a 4-9 season.

That challenge isn’t going to get any easier this weekend.

Fresh off a close defeat at the hands of Illinois and a blowout victory over Howard, Kent State will square off with No. 11 Penn State for the second time in three seasons this Saturday.

The Golden Flashes are an expected 34-point underdog, as the hosts are coming off a 51-6 drubbing over their in-state rivals Pittsburgh.

Kent State coach Sean Lewis has yet to experience coaching in Beaver Stadium as the visiting team.

The first-year head coach was not at the helm when the Nittany Lions prevailed over the Flashes, 33-13, to kick off the 2016 season

“Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit louder,” Lewis said. “But, from our vantage point, we need to do what we we do. Getting the chance to play in another big-time venue, it’s a lot of fun for our kids to get into those situations.”

Penn State has won its last 14 games at home, but it was only 10 days ago that the Nittany Lions narrowly escaped a massive upset at the hands of Appalachian State in the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium.

The Golden Flashes are undoubtedly major underdogs this weekend, but they will certainly look to that game as a blueprint for how to slow the Nittany Lions down on offense, and how to attack Penn State’s defense.

“Well offensively, it starts with their quarterback (Trace McSorley),” Lewis said. “He’s a dynamic athlete; he can hurt you in a lot of different ways. He’s a proven winner and continues to do that this year and find ways to get it done.”

Lewis was quick to compliment Franklin and his staff for the coaching job they’ve done and the challenges that the Nittany Lions present.

“I mean, (Franklin) has got a galaxy over there with the number of stars he’s been able to accumulate in recruiting,” Lewis said. “They’re long, they’re athletic, they’re nasty, they hunt the ball, they’re opportunistic, and they play the game the right way — which is a credit to coach Franklin and his staff.”

For Kent State, the key to its success starts with the play of its sophomore quarterback Woody Barrett.

In his first career start, Barrett threw 280 yards and ran for 117 yards for 3 total touchdowns to help Kent State dismantle Howard.

He’ll be aided on offense by dynamic running back Justin Rankin, who rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown last weekend, and has his work cut out for him against Kevin Givens and the Penn State front seven.

On defense, the Golden Flashes are lead by linebacker Matt Bahr and cornerback Jamal Parker. The pair combined for 13 tackles last weekend, and Bahr led the team with three sacks, while Parker added an interception.

In his final thoughts on the matchup, Lewis focused on Kent State’s need for an effective game plan and an emphasis on its players strengths.

“We need to lock in and build a game plan that highlights our players’ strengths, he said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge that lies ahead of us in Happy Valley.”