January 7, 2013
Hazell's Kent State chapter ends with loss
MOBILE, Ala. - Kent State's storybook season was down to this: Fourth-and-eight with one minute left, down four, on Arkansas State's 25-yard line.
As soon as quarterback Spencer Keith, flushed out of the pocket and running frantically for the first down to extend his career, was upended to end the Golden Flashes' chances, Coach Darrell Hazell leaned forward, hands on knees and head down.
This remarkable chapter in his coaching career was over.
Arkansas State ran out the clock, and Hazell slowly walked to the middle of the field, trying to find his counterpart in the melee. After a handshake and a half hug, he headed toward the Kent State locker room for the final time, no doubt proud of what he'd accomplished but saddened by the ending.
There was no looking forward to the new challenges ahead at Purdue on Sunday night: The Golden Flashes won a school-record 11 games but didn't win the last one.
And that hurt.
"Obviously, we would have loved to get this one for our guys in the locker room," Hazell said after Kent's 17-13 loss at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. "It's hard not to be able to come away with a win. Obviously, I have some strong feelings for the guys down the hallway here. I'm going to miss those guys a lot. It's a rough one."
This game figured to be a high-scoring one with both teams coming in averaging more than 34 points per game, but neither offense could get untracked.
The Golden Flashes struggled to get in favorable third-down situations, and thus, failed to convert many of them. They were only 3 for 15 for the game.
But they still had a chance, getting the ball back with 4:50 in the game and down 17-13. Kent State had to move the ball without its best player, though, losing Dri Archer to an injury earlier in the game. And it did.
It actually had a player drop a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone on the drive before converting on a fourth-and-eight to keep the drive going with about two minutes to play.
But the Golden Flashes seemed to have little urgency, taking time to huddle and not quickly snapping the ball while the clock quickly ticked down on their season.
Before the fourth-and-eight play, Hazell used a timeout, but the play didn't develop and Kent State's season was over.
Afterward, Hazell relayed his message to the team in the locker room after the loss.
"I told them to stay together, no matter what happens down the road, future-wise," he said. "We're a team. That's how we got to where we are. Because we are a strong team. I said no matter what, you guys take care of each other."
Keith, a senior from Arkansas, said this finish was tough to swallow.
"It was a great season. We hadn't had one like this ever at Kent State," he said. "I appreciate all the guys working hard to make this (season) special. We would have liked to have finished with the win, but we didn't."
Offensive, defensive alignmentsThe Golden Flashes used multiple formations against Arkansas State, lining up under center and in shotgun, using three- and four-wide receiver looks in both of those and also used multiple running back personnel groupings.
Though Hazell apparently has no role in calling plays, he seemed especially involved in the offense. He held a laminated play-calling sheet throughout the game on the sidelines and was in the offense's huddle every time before that unit ran onto the field.
After nearly every offensive series, Hazell made his way toward the benches, seeking out specific players each time. Sometimes, it was Keith. Sometimes, it was a receiver or a tight end. He also kneeled in front of the offensive line to chat at points.
But Hazell rarely spoke with the defensive players.
Despite entering the game as one of the nation's best at forcing turnovers, Kent didn't have a single one against Arkansas State's hurry-up offense on Sunday.
The Golden Flashes played with three down linemen much of the game, usually having a fourth man standing up at the line. They appeared to struggle at points in getting personnel on the field and lined up quickly, but the group tried to be aggressive at points, too.
Sometimes, it worked. Kent had a big sack on a cornerback blitz late in the game. Sometimes, it didn't. Earlier on that series, it brought about seven defenders and Arkansas State was able to pick them up and get a completion.
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