1. Beware the Archer
He’s all of 5-foot-8, 175 pounds yet he’s the single most dangerous offensive player on the field today – and on most occasions. Dri Archer is the MAC’s Maserati. He’s covered 40 yards from a standstill in football light speed: 4.26 seconds. Defenses fret about him the same way offenses lose sleep over Khalil Mack. Sometimes Archer will line up in the backfield (last year he ran 14 times for 127 yards against UB). Sometimes he’ll line up in the slot, becoming a matchup nightmare. He’s had TD receptions in four straight games, with longs of 73 and 66 yards. Manage to contain him after runs and receptions and there’s still the matter of dealing with him as a returner. He’s taken four kickoffs to the house in his career, one of them this season. Archer’s bound to break free for a big play sometime today. UB’s challenge is to make sure it doesn’t happen twice, three times or more. He had a 57-yard run against UB last year and a long reception of 22.
2. Aches and Pains
Both teams come into this one with injury issues. UB lost left guard Jasen Carlson to a leg fracture in the win over UMass. Defensive end Colby Way came off the field early with a knee issue. Wideout Alex Neutz suffered a concussion. Way and Neutz are listed as day-to-day. The Bulls also remain without LBs Blake Bean and Nick Gilbo. It was revealed this week that Gilbo’s done for the year. On the Kent side, kicker/punter Anthony Melchiori is out for the season. Quarterback Colin Reardon and star defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix missed last week’s game at South Alabama, and Nix – a three-time all-MAC player – is now listed No. 2 on the depth chart. Reardon is Kent’s second-leading ball carrier with 59 carries for 222 yards.
3. Depth Charge
Wide receiver loomed as one of UB’s leaner depth positions coming into the season, so much so that the No. 3 receiving spot remained up for grabs late into camp. In fact, the potential absence of Neutz might have been expected to virtually paralyze the pass attack earlier in the season. Things have changed. The Bulls burned the redshirt of true freshman Boise Ross and have seen him produce a couple of significant plays. But the biggest leap has come from 6-foot-4 sophomore Ron Willoughby, who produced two big catches in the UMass game, including a one-handed grab worthy of the season-ending highlight tape. Depending on Neutz’s availability, Ross and Willoughby might have to play more integral roles today as complements to Fred Lee.
4. Stat Check
Some of Kent State’s numbers have to be taken lightly given the caliber of the competition. Like the fact the Flashes have been out-rushed by 500 yards and are yielding 5.6 yards per carry. Is that a sign of a porous defense or the result of a schedule that’s included LSU, Penn St., MAC East co-leader Bowling Green and MAC West kingpins Northern Illinois and Ball State. What can’t be as easily rationalized are Kent’s 12 fumbles. That’s an ominous number given UB’s standing at No. 2 in the nation in turnover margin. The outcome today may well hinge on whether Kent can avoid the costly giveaways.
5. Extra Points
This is a much-anticipated change of scenery for Kent State, which has been on the road five of the last six. … Kent State won last year’s meeting, 23-7, at UB Stadium but UB’s taken the last three in Kent. … Former Golden Flashes DB Paul Haynes is in his first year as head coach, having replaced Darrell Hazell (Purdue). … UB QB Joe Licata has thrown a TD pass in every start. … Khalil Mack is a half-sack from sole possession of the school record.
Outlook: Hard to see Bulls capturing MAC East if they don’t get this one. Archer’s presence means it won’t be easy but Patrick Clarke gives Bulls pronounced edge in the kicking game. UB, 20-17.