Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 1/6/13
We are reaching the end of the bowl season with only two left to play. I am always confused when we get to this time of year and some of the lesser conferences are stuck in the middle of the BCS games, but it is better than not having any college football games. This is a battle of interim coaches as Gus Malzahn (Arkansas St.) and Darrell Hazell (Kent St.) have moved on to bigger opportunities at Auburn and Purdue, respectively. Coaching changes at this time of year can create havoc and disappointment in players and fan bases, but that is certainly part of the post-season carousel in today’s college football. This game will tell us a lot about how the coaching transitions are being handled and how the two teams will be affected going into next year. Will Kent St. be able to hold onto their new found success under a new coaching regime or will they shrink back into mediocrity? We will get a glance of what their short-term future will be tonight. GoDaddy.com Bowl   Arkansas St. (Sun Belt) (-3) vs. Kent St. (MAC) January 6th 9 pm ESPN – Kent St. is heading south for a post-season bowl for the first time since 1972. Legendary HC Don James was at the helm the last time they had a winning season and enjoyed a post-season bowl. That season they also brought home the conference hardware and this year they came up just a bit short. A conference championship this year would have sent the Golden Flash to the Orange Bowl in what would have been one of the most outstanding stories of the year. As it is, it still is a great story. Great seasons by lowly and historically bad programs tend to create coaching changes. This situation is no different as HC Darrell Hazell is moving on to Purdue next year. Kent has been a great story and their fan base was excited about the prospects of an Orange Bowl (I know, I was at the MAC Championship). Hopefully the excitement carries over and they make the trip down to Mobile, as it appears they may not see another bowl game in a very long time, if history is any indication. Arkansas St. walked away with the Sun Belt Championship by winning their last 7 games of the year and outlasting a talented group of teams at the top of the conference this year. The Red Wolves did it under first-year HC Gus Malzahn, who helped Auburn win a National Championship as OC in 2010. Malzahn is heading back to Auburn next year as the head coach after just a one-and-done experience at Arkansas St. Hugh Freeze pulled a similar act in Jonesboro in 2011 leaving for Ole Miss after spending just one year at the helm. One could certainly argue that the turnaround that Freeze orchestrated was more impressive than what Malzahn did this year, but Gus does have a National Championship as OC at Auburn on his resume. Freeze led the Red Wolves to a 10-3 record after back-to-back 4-8 seasons before his arrival. It is the second straight bowl game for the Alumni of Arkansas St. in Mobile, AL but only the third in the program’s history. The location is close enough and the novelty has probably yet to wear off in Jonesboro. What to Expect: The coaching change will likely be more difficult on Arkansas St. because this is the second consecutive year that a coach has swooped in only to be there for a year. Kent St. has been a peculiar team this year and it is hard to explain exactly how they have won as many games as they’ve won this year. For example, against N. Illinois in the MAC Championship, they were down only 17-10 at half but were being outgained 250-50 total yards. They should not have been in the game late against the Huskies, but found a way to push it to two overtimes. That is how they’ve been all year and it will be hard to know if they will still play with those qualities and that passion without their head coach since it wasn’t there before he arrived. This program’s passion and competitiveness basically didn’t exist for close to 30 years before Hazell arrived. It is likely that it will just disappear again. Here is one of the stats that help to make Kent St. such an enigma: Kent St. is 106th in the nation in yards allowed per game passing, but they are ranked 53rd in pass efficiency defense giving up 26 TDs and grabbing 23 INTs. They give up yards but have ball hawks in the secondary. They don’t always show up, however, grabbing 6 INTs alone in their upset of Rutgers. They also had a key INT in the MAC Championship that helped them rally in the fourth quarter. On offense, Kent St. is going to do one thing; run the football. Junior RB Dri Archer and sophomore RB Trayion Durham have provided a monstrous 1-2 punch on the ground for the Flash all year. Durham has averaged 96 ypg while Archer has turned in 104 ypg. Additionally, they have combined for 29 TDs on the year. In comparison, their passing game has produced less than 170 ypg on average all year. After an above average season for the MAC, they have fallen on their face in the post season. The only conference they have had an advantage over has been the Sun Belt Conference, with wins by Ohio over ULM and CMU over W. Kentucky. The trend stops here, as the magic has left the sideline for Kent and Arkansas St. carries more momentum into this one. The Red Wolves pull one out for the SBC, 38-28. -Doak
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