FACTS & STATS: Site: Ladd Peebles Stadium (40,000) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Kent State 1-2, South Alabama 1-1. Away Record: Kent State 1-3, South Alabama 1-2. Neutral Record: Kent State 0-0, South Alabama 0-0. Conference Record: Kent State 1-3, South Alabama 1-1. Series Record: Kent State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: In a non-conference contest at Ladd Peebles Stadium the Kent State Golden Flashes from the Mid-American Conference will play the South Alabama Jaguars of the Sun Belt Conference on Saturday afternoon.
Paul Haynes has not been able to get the Golden Flashes to the lofty heights that predecessor Darrell Hazell did a year ago. Under their new head coach the Golden Flashes, who won 11 games in 2012, are off to a 2-5 start. The most recent setback was a 27-24 loss on the road to Ball State, which was the second straight defeat for the Golden Flashes.
Despite significantly lower expectations coming into the year, the season has not fared all that well for South Alabama. In just their second campaign as an FBS program the Jaguars have accumulated a mere 2-3 overall record. However, South Alabama has been extremely competitive this season, with all three losses coming by a combined nine points. Two losses have come by a single point, including a 34-33 loss to Troy last time out.
Kent State and South Alabama have met once before, but it was prior to Jaguars move to the FBS ranks. During the 2011 campaign the Golden Flashes hosted the Jaguars and pulled out a 33-25 victory.
Putting up points has been a real struggle for Kent State. The Golden Flashes are averaging just under 19 points per game, placing them among the bottom 20 teams in the country in scoring. With just the ninth-best offense (336 ypg) in the MAC the low scoring isn't much of a surprise.
The weakness on offense may be even greater this weekend as lead rusher Trayion Durham (493 yards, three TDs) is listed as questionable for undisclosed reasons. If he is unable to go it is likely Anthony Meray (117 yards, TD) would get first crack at the starting role.
At quarterback Colin Reardon has been rather pedestrian. The Kent State signal caller has thrown for just 1,199 yards on the season, though he is completing just under 60 percent of his passes while accumulating 10 touchdown passes. Reardon has thrown an interception in each of the last four games but also has a pair of touchdown passes in three of those contests.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the slowed offense is the lack of production from Dri Archer. Archer totaled 1,990 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns last season but this year he has just 251 total yards and three scores. He has missed two games, but the pace still hasn't been there. If Durham is out Archer should see more action. The more traditional pass- catchers for the Golden Flashes include Chris Humphrey (36 receptions, 433 yards, three TDs), Tyshon Goode (23 receptions, 231 yards, TD) and Casey Pierce (13 receptions, 117 yards, three TDs).
Making things worse for Kent State has been the fact that the defense is allowing 130 total yards more to opponents than the Golden Flashes are picking up. In all the Golden Flashes are allowing 466.1 yards per game, which has them ranked in the bottom four teams in the MAC. The struggles have come despite the strong play of Luke Wollet (58 tackles, two INTs).
South Alabama had a 33-27 lead with less than a minute to play against Troy thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Roth Metheny to Jereme Jones. However, the Jaguars then surrendered a touchdown with seven seconds remaining to take the loss. Fighting to about even has been a trend for the Jaguars who are scoring as many points as they allow (30.0).
Relying on big passing strikes like the one Metheny threw against the Trojans isn't something the Jaguars have done this season. Metheny is completing a solid 62.4 percent of his pass attempts for 1,065 yards but he has just five touchdown passes and four interceptions. Metheny has shown some ability on the ground with 221 yards on 42 carries as well as a team-high six rushing scores.
Though Metheny has been dangerous when he takes off the primary rusher is Jay Jones, who has tallied 279 yards and two scores on 54 carries. Perhaps not as prolific a runner as other backs in the country, Jones is still averaging a healthy 5.2 yards per carry.
Jereme Jones is one of a trio of receivers for the Jaguars to have tallied at least 20 receptions on the year, while leading the team in touchdowns (two). Wes Saxton (21 receptions, 320 yards) and Shavarez Smith (20 receptions, 370 yards, TD) are the other main receivers.
On defense South Alabama has been one of the best squads in the Sun Belt. Currently the squad ranks third in the league in total defense (406.4 ypg), but that ranks just 75th nationally. The strength of the unit has been in getting pressure as the Jaguars lead the Sun Belt in sacks (12.0). Again that number doesn't compare that favorably at the national level, ranking 52nd. Romelle Jones (4.5 sacks) is the best pass rusher on the team.
Without Durham the Golden Flashes, who are already having issues on offense, will be without one of their key weapons. Although Archer has the ability to make up for that loss if he is turned loose, the Golden Flashes haven't shown enough early on to think that will be enough.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 30, Kent State 27
10/16 10:41:21 ET
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