DETROIT — Kent State thought they could achieve the impossible Friday night.
The Golden Flashes almost pulled it off.
Kent State, a team that hadn’t won a Mid-American
Conference championship in 40 years and hadn’t even had a winning season
in a decade, was on the verge of breaking through the biggest glass
ceiling in college sports. The Golden Flashes were about to put the
little MAC into a BCS bowl game.
When Kent State led 10-0 in the first quarter, it looked like a
trip to the Orange Bowl might actually happen. When the Golden Flashes scored a
last-minute touchdown to send the game to overtime, destiny appeared to
be on their side.
And when Mathew Sims’ field goal started drifting left at the end
of the first overtime, it looked like the most improbable season in MAC
history was going to have the perfect ending.
Sims slid the 40-yard field goal just inside the upright, forcing a
second extra period. On the first play, Northern Illinois running back
Akeem Daniels ran 23 yards to the 2, and record-setting quarterback
Jordan Lynch dove in on the next snap. Kent State
had a chance to force a third overtime but stalled at the 9.
Spencer Keith was pressured on fourth down, and Demetrius Stone picked
off his desperate pass to give the Huskies a 44-37 win and a
second-straight conference championship.
“That was a great football game, but this one is going to be hard
to swallow for the next few days,” Golden Flashes coach Darrell
Hazell said. “We battled all night against a great football team, but in the
end we just needed a couple more plays on both
sides of the ball.”
When Hazell, Keith and Dri Archer walked into the postgame
interview room, they looked exhausted and disappointed. They all talked
about the toughness of the game and the difficulty in beating a team
playing in its third straight championship game.
“I always tell the guys to stay calm and take things one play at a
time,” Keith said about Kent State’s rally, which saw them come from
27-13 down to tie the game twice in the fourth quarter. “We knew we
could get some quick plays going against them, and
we just stayed focused. They were tough, but we’ve been doing that all
Hazell wasn’t surprised that his team scored 21 fourth-quarter
points after managing fewer than 100 yards of offense in the first three
“This team has had tremendous resolve all year,” he said. “We have
been down quite a few times in the second half, and we’ve always found a
way to scrap back and make enough plays to win ball games. It’s been
amazing. Obviously, we didn’t quite get it
done this year, but you saw what we’ve done all season.”
Friday night wasn’t the time for Hazell or his players to dwell on
what they had done this season. The defeat, and the lost chance at the
Orange Bowl, were too fresh in their minds to look back on the positives
of what might have been the best season in
But at some point, after they play in their first bowl since the
1972 Tangerine Bowl, they will probably realize what they’ve
accomplished. They came into the season with just one winning record in
25 years, lost 47-14 to Kentucky in the second game of
the season, then won 11 straight games.
On the way, they beat Rutgers — the program’s first win over a
ranked opponent — managed the first 8-0 record in the MAC East since Miami in 2003, and posted the first 10-win season in school history.
“I can’t begin to put into words how I proud I am of this football
team and this organization,” Hazell said. “It is the players in our
locker room and the coaches in our locker room that made this entire
Now Kent State waits — first for a bowl invitation and then for
next season, to try to prove that for the first time in their
90-year history the Golden Flashes might have a solid program to put on