Opponent preview: Kent State Golden Flashes

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COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 04: Dustin Crum #7 of the Kent State Golden Flashes runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on September 04, 2021 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

 

Coming off two ranked opponents to start the season, the No. 5 Hawkeyes (2-0) return home this week for some #MACtion. When they take the field against Kent State (1-1), it’ll be just the third meeting between the two schools.

The first two produced lopsided Iowa victories. The combined score was 90-7.

This’ll be the second top-10 opponent the Golden Flashes have played this season. Week one they lost 41-10 to then No. 6 Texas A&M. They followed that up with a 60-10 stomping of FCS VMI.

Head coach Sean Lewis is in his fourth season and has had some success at a program that’s been relatively devoid of it for the better part of this decade. After a 2-10 first season, he led the Golden Flashes to back-to-back winning seasons in 2019 and 2020. That’s first time they’ve done that since 1976-77. In 2019, he also helped them to get their first bowl win in program history. Here’s a look at what Hawkeyes’ fans will see on Saturday.

Series Quick Facts

Number of games: 2
First meeting: September 1, 2001; Iowa 51-0
Last meeting: September 2, 2004; Iowa 39-7
All-time series: 2-0

Significant Stats

Rush yards: 360 per game (1st in the country)
Interceptions: 8 (1st in the country)
Third down conversion: 51 percent (28th in the country)
Rush defense: 220.5 yards per game (116th in the country)

Stat Leaders

Passing: Dustin Crum (QB), 269 yards, 1 TD
Rushing: Marquez Cooper (RB), 161 yards 1 TD
Receiving: Dante Cehpus (WR), 75 yards
Tackles: Dean Clark (S), 15
Interceptions: Elvis Hines (CB), Montre Miller (CB), 3

Offense

There’s really only one way to describe Kent State’s offense: tempo. They like to get a play off every 15-20 seconds. So far this season, they’re 13th in plays run among the teams that have played two games.

“Hard to simulate that,” said Moon Family Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz. “Just like if you play an option team, it is hard to simulate. There are things you do in practice, but you can’t get it just the way it’s going to be during game time.”

That’s translated into a lot of offense for them. Last season, they were first in the country in points at 50, and yards per game at almost 607. Though they did only play four games.

In 2021, they’re 19th in the country in yards per game. Granted, a lot those yards came against FCS level VMI, but that tempo is still the biggest challenge the Hawkeyes are preparing for.

“We just have to play fundamental football and know where we need to be,” senior defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg said. “They like to get you out of your gaps. The like to get you second guessing your assignments.”

In terms of personnel for the Golden Flashes, it all starts at quarterback in preseason MAC Offensive Player of the year Dustin Crum.

“The biggest concern for me, I think for all of us, is the quarterback, the way he plays, the things that he does,” Ferentz said. “That’s where it all starts. It doesn’t end there, but it starts there for sure. That’s part of it, too. You need a quarterback with confidence and savvy to run a tempo like that.”

On top of his team-leading 269 passing yards, he’s also run for 130 yards. Sounds a lot like the last two QBs the Hawkeyes have faced. Neither one of them finished the game.

Kent State likes to spread the ball out to number of guys. Running the ball in particular. Last week, five players rushed for more than 65 yards. 494 yards and seven touchdowns in total. Those are both the NCAA single-game high so far this season.

They also had seven players record a catch.

“They spread us out,” senior cornerback Riley Moss said. “They run a lot RPO, hitches, slants, so that really big for where you’re looking with your eyes and what you’re reading.”

The offensive line is ultra-experienced. Four of the five are seniors and the fifth is a junior. Two of them, Nathan Monnin and Bill Kuduk were preseason All-MAC. They’ve given up six sacks so far this season.

Defense

While the strength of Kent State is on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is opportunistic. By this point most fans know about the Hawkeyes’ interception numbers. Would you believe Kent State has more? They do, with eight, which is good for first in the nation. Both corners in Elvis Hines and Montre Miller lead the way with three interceptions each.

Unlike some of the offensive production, those numbers were not boosted by playing an FCS team. Four of those picks were against Texas A&M.

The defensive formation also presents another interesting matchup for the Hawkeye offense. That’s three unique looks in three weeks.

“Definitely another multiple front team,” said Ferentz. “Give you a lot of different looks. They’re unique compared to the teams we’re used to playing. Kind of like we’ve had three very different preparations now. That’s a challenge for us.”

Through the first two games opposing teams have found success running the ball on the Golden Flashes. They currently ranked 116th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing yards allowed at 220.5 yards per game. It makes for a good opportunity to get the Iowa rushing attack, which ranks 104th in the country, back on track.

“We want to get the running game going each game,” freshman tackle Mason Richman said. “In the second half especially. Even in the second half when we’re up.”

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