October 13, 2010

Running game stands still

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Kent State has rushed for over 100 yards in just two of its five games this
season. The Golden Flashes were held to 75 or less rushing yards in the other
three games. Their hopes of climbing back into the race for the Mid-American
Conference East Division title hinge on jumpstarting a sluggish running game
to ease the pressure on sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith, who continues
to struggle this season.

Kent State's
running game has been ineffective, even when getting the backs to
the outside

Two weeks ago at Miami, the Flashes committed to the run game by carrying
35 times for just 132 yards, but scored three rushing touchdowns. Their 3.8
yards per carry average was an improvement considering they were held to just
four yards on 17 carries at Boston College and 58 yards on 25 carries at Penn

Unfortunately, despite an effort to get their running backs out in space,
the Flashes took a step backward in last week's 28-17 win over Akron.
Kent State ran the ball 32 times for just 75 yards, for an average of 2.3-yards
per carry.

"We're not getting the productivity again out of the running back
position that we should be getting," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin. "We've got some holes and some things that are there
and we're just not making people miss. We're not making extra yards.
If we block it good enough to get four (yards), that's what we're
getting right now."

With sixth-year senior Eugene Jarvis sidelined since suffering a
strained groin in week one, neither junior Jacquise Terry nor sophomore
Dri Archer has been consistently effective.

Terry's best game came at Miami, when he rushed 23 times for 86 yards
and scored twice. Archer had 20 carries for a season-high 43 yards against
Murray State.

Against Akron, Martin and the offensive coaches did their best to put Terry
and Archer into position to use their strengths to establish the running game.

The plan produced minimal results.

"We used the speed option a little bit there Saturday to try to get
the ball out on the perimeter and that worked for us a little bit," Martin
said. "You've got to try to find the scheme that they're
comfortable with. Some running backs like draw plays. Some running backs like
a puller in front of them; they like a big lineman pulling in front of them."


3rd- 1-3
3rd- 4-6
3rd- 7-9
3rd- 10+

In that game, Terry rushed 21 times for 68 yards and a touchdown while Archer
had four carries for minus-5 yards.

The Flashes will continue to game plan new ways to establish a ground game.

"I think it's finding what they are most comfortable with and
that's kind of where we are now," Martin said. "We've
run the power play a little bit now, putting a fullback up in front of them
and pulling a guard and all that. They've kind of responded to that,
that's been one of the better plays we had running-wise there Saturday.
Then the zone play got going a little bit out of the one-back look."

The power play led to the Flashes only rushing touchdown of the game against
Akron, a Terry six-yard run in the second quarter that put Kent State on top,

"That was one where we pulled a guard around in front of him. That was
a power play," Martin said. "(Akron) actually had an unblocked
linebacker there that he ran by."

The Kent State running game is at its best in third-and-short situations.
In five games, the Flashes have run the ball on third down and less than three
11 times for 60 yards, a 5.45-yards per carry average. It's on first
down where they really struggle, having rushed 74 times for 154 yards, or 2.08-yards
per carry.

Again, it comes down to the running backs being tackled by the first defender
they encounter. That occurs even on screen passes or other short throws designed
to get the running backs to the perimeter.

"A couple times we put our running backs out in space on hot throws
where they got the ball in their hands and they didn't make anybody miss," Martin
said. "Dri is a little bit more of a speed guy than a wiggle guy. Jacquise
can do that though and we've got to get him up and running a little bit

Jarvis isn't the only running back slowed by injury.

Senior Andre Flowers tweaked his hamstring and has been limited the
past two weeks. He hasn't been able to run full speed or make cuts so
he was limited to just special teams last weekend against Akron.

He could see more time on Saturday at Toledo.

"I think he should be OK for this week," Martin said. "We
possibly have some opportunities to get Andre in there a little bit more."

Flowers last carried the ball in week one, when he ran five times for 26 yards.

KSU running
backs have struggled making it past the first tackler.

While there is still hope Jarvis could return at some point this season, Martin
is prepared to play without the two-time all-conference performer.

"Looking at him we've got to plan to not have Eugene Jarvis this
year," Martin said. "He hasn't been able to practice in a
long time. He's going to rehab, he's going to continue to try to
get back out there but as far as that being a story for (the media), we just
need to move on."

Jarvis has been cleared to play by the team trainers, but the hamstring injury
allowed him to do many of the things a running back relies on to be successful.

"I think at other positions you can play with an injury like he has,
probably, but when you're a running back and you've got to make
cuts and you're going to get grabbed on and pulled on it's just
hard," Martin said. "I just don't know that he's going
to be able to get that done. If he does, great, but right now we've got
to go with the guys that we've got. That's kind of where that whole
story will end."

Martin also said it isn't likely freshman Rob Hollomon will
see any action unless the Flashes suffer another injury at the position.

Hollomon, whose play in practice has made it difficult decision to redshirt
him, is still learning the offense and his role in pass protection. It's
those thing that have kept him off the field this season.

"Right now he's really good when he has the ball in his hands.
He can do that," Martin said. "But, pass protection, he's
not ready for that and any type of blocking and things like that. That would
be asking a lot of him. For him to come in and be an every down back, that
couldn't happen right now. It would be nice for him to have the redshirt
year to get stronger, to get a little bit bigger, but at the same time if we
get into a situation where if Jacquise got hurt or something like that and
we needed a back to go in there and gain yards we could definitely use him
in the passing game when he's a route runner and to hand him the football."

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