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November 17, 2011
Two similar foes battle for bowl eligibility
Saturday's game at Dix Stadium between Kent State and Eastern Michigan is a match made for November. Both teams play alike and both teams are in must-win situations. A loss virtually eliminates both teams from bowl eligibility.
A week after Kent State's 35-3 win over Akron, Kent State coach Darrell Hazell talked about how important this game is.
"This game against Eastern Michigan is our biggest game of the season," Hazell said. "Our preparation has to be over-the-top for this game because if you give yourself a chance to win this game, who knows what's going to happen in that last week. It's nice to be in the thick of things in the month of November."
Adding to the pressure of winning for both teams, Kent State seniors will also have the emotion of playing at Dix Stadium for the last time. Hazell said he hopes the experience of playing with high emotions during the Akron game just last week will prepare the team to keep their feelings in-check.
"We have to be able to overcome their first wave of energy and settle into the game because it's an emotional game for us, because it's the last time our seniors will ever take the field at Dix Stadium," Hazell said. "We're going to have parents down on the field and there's going to be some tears shed. And then you have to get refocused pretty quickly after you kickoff."
When it comes to scouting the Eagles, Hazell pretty much sees his team. The Eagles rely on the run as they are currently second in the Mid-American Conference in rushing yards with 2080 on 511 attempts for an average of 4.1 yards per carry.
Eastern Michigan junior quarterback Alex Gillett is a huge contributor. The Eagles use the 6-foot, 1-inch, 215-pound quarterback to run many quarterback sweeps. In 10 games, Gillett leads the team in rushing yards with 654 yards in 139 attempts and three touchdowns.
"(Gillett) is not like anyone we've seen yet," Hazell said. "He's patient, waits for a crease to open and runs three to five yards. Very patient."
However, Hazell said the Eagles' offense is not the best part about this team. Hazell said he was most impressed with Eastern Michigan's special teams, and added that he watched every special teams play the Eagle have had so far this season.
"I'm very impressed with their special teams," Hazell said. "They run around and hit you. They play with a lot of enthusiasm. It's going to be a challenge for us in all three fazes."
As for the Flashes' special teams that allowed two blocked extra point opportunities and one miss, Hazell said they are addressing the problem. Hazell said the right side of the line was a little weak, but after watching the film, he could see junior kicker Freddy Cortez needs to elevate his kicks more.
"Freddy has a huge leg," Hazell said. "Sometimes he doesn't elevate it as much as we'd like him to and that's one of the things we're talking to him about. He's a competitive guy and a perfectionist. I'm sure it's something he'll work diligently to get fixed."
Kickoff between these two teams is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Dix Stadium. The Flashes have to their final two games to have a chance at being bowl eligible.