Following a dominant 42-17 victory over Bowling Green (0-3) last Tuesday, UB (3-0) returns to Amherst to take on the Kent State Golden Flashes (3-0) in the Bulls’ first day game after three weeks of midweek MACtion.
Kent State is coming off a strong victory of its own, beating Akron 69-35 in an impressive offensive showing.
Senior quarterback Dustin Crum led an aerial assault that resulted in 348 yards passing and three passing touchdowns, sharing the MAC East Offensive Player of the Week award with UB’s Jaret Patterson.
In a battle of high-powered offenses, the Bulls hope to slow down the best offense in the MAC, as the Golden Flashes have scored 52.7 points per game.
If playing against the best offense in the conference wasn’t enough motivation, Saturday’s contest serves as a revenge game for the Bulls, as UB lost to Kent State 30-27 last season.
With both teams being undefeated in a shortened season, the winner of this game essentially punches a ticket to the MAC Championship.
While the offenses will get all the headlines, the name of the game will be defense. The team that strings together the most stops will come out of UB Stadium with an undefeated record and be in prime position for a trip to Detroit.
Here’s what to expect from Kent State Saturday afternoon at UB Stadium:
Coach: Sean Lewis, 12-16, third season at Kent State
After a rebuild year in his first season, head coach Sean Lewis had a successful 2019 campaign. Kent State went 7-6 overall and 5-3 in MAC play. The Golden Flashes won their final four games, capping the season off with their first bowl win in program history, a 51-41 victory over Utah State in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
Kent State ranked near the middle of the MAC in all offensive categories last season, averaging 29.2 points and 405.6 total yards per game, both good for sixth in the 12-team conference.
Quarterback Dustin Crum proved to be a difference-maker for the Flashes, throwing for 2,625 yards, 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions last season. The Grafton, OH native also ran for 707 yards and two touchdowns.
The Flashes’ offense benefited from a great wide receiver duo last season, as both Isaiah McKoy and Mike Carrigan received All-MAC honors. McKoy emerged as a star for Kent State, leading the team with 56 catches for 872 yards. The third-team All-MAC selection also led the MAC with 15.6 yards per reception and eight receiving touchdowns. Carrigan was second on the team with 570 receiving yards and five touchdown catches, also earning third-team All-MAC honors.
As the offense displayed consistency throughout the season, the defense proved to be a liability for Kent State. The Golden Flashes gave up a conference-worst 473.5 yards per game while allowing opponents to score just over 30 points a contest.
Kent State lost both of its defensive All-MAC selections to graduation last offseason. Cornerback Jamal Parker led the team with two interceptions and also became a big contributor on the kickoff team, returning a kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown against Eastern Michigan and averaging 29.6 yards per kick return. Defensive lineman Theo Majette played in all 13 games for the Flashes and led the team with 5.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries. Majette is now playing for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
In the special teams department, 2019 third-team All-MAC punter Derek Adams transferred to Northwestern after four years with the Flashes. However, junior kicker Matthew Trickett returns. Trickett was named 2019 MAC Special Teams Player of the Year, setting a school record with 29 field goals made.
Both Crum and McKoy returned for Kent State this year, and through three games, the duo has exceeded expectations. Crum has thrown for 838 yards and nine touchdowns, both good for second in the MAC behind Western Michigan’s Kaleb Eleby. McKoy has 318 receiving yards and 4 touchdown receptions, also good for second in the conference.
The Flashes have thrown the ball really well, but the run game has been even more impressive. Kent State currently ranks first in the country in rushing offense, averaging 299 yards per game. The Flashes have spread the wealth on the ground, using three running backs this season. Junior Xavier Williams and freshmen Marquez Cooper and Brayn Bradford have combined for 620 rushing yards, with Crum also adding 164 yards on the ground.
The Kent State offense currently ranks first in the MAC, averaging an outstanding 52.7 points and 616 total yards per game.
As well as the offense is playing, the Kent Stage defense has also held its end of the bargain. The Golden Flashes are giving up just 344.3 yards and 27.3 points per game, ranking second and fourth in the conference respectively.
Sophomore safety Dean Clark leads Kent with 21 tackles while freshman linebacker Brandon Coleman has been putting the pressure on opposing passers, leading the Golden Flashes with three sacks.
After a competitive Week 1 matchup against Eastern Michigan, Kent State beat Bowling Green and Akron by a combined 72 points. Bowling Green and Akron are two of the weaker teams in the conference, but Kent State’s first three games have still been nothing short of impressive.
Kent State is by far the most complete team the Bulls have faced thus far. The Golden Flashes’ ability to lead the nation in rushing while also putting up strong numbers through the air highlights the versatility of what might be the most complete offense in the conference. Crum and McKoy pose serious threats to a UB secondary that’s looked vulnerable at times.
The Bulls are in for a dog fight on Saturday afternoon, no two ways about it. An opponent with the ability to play balanced football on both sides of the ball is something the Bulls haven’t faced yet. This clash of 3-0 teams should prove to decide the winner of the MAC East.
In a regular-season matchup that will serve as a crucial turning point within the conference, the Bulls must play their best football to not only come out with a win, but have a chance to play for a MAC Championship.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.