September 12, 2008
Two years ago Kent State kickers converted just 2 of 10 field goal attempts. Last season, Nate Reed booted 18 of 24 three-point tries to correct one flaw on special teams, but the Golden Flashes struggled in the punt game as Jake Kilroy averaged just 36.6 yards per kick.
So far in 2008 the Golden Flashes improved in one area of special teams but failed in another.
Freshman punter Matt Rinehart averages 42.4 yards per punt, but the team had two punts blocked last Saturday in a 48-28 loss at Iowa State.
This time, it won't take a full season to correct the special teams flaw.
"It will be fixed," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin.
Kent State scored first at Iowa State, but after recovering a blocked punt at the Golden Flashes one-yard line, the Cyclones needed just one play to tie the score.
Martin is troubled by the fact that it was a mental error that led to the blocks.
"It's one thing if they had a scheme that our protections couldn't handle; it wasn't the case," he said. "We knew it during the game and it was confirmed on the film. In fact we blocked it perfectly on the first punt."
The film also confirmed that they Cyclones weren't even going after the punter.
"The two punts that we had blocked, they weren't even rushing the punt," Martin said. "They were in a return and we had one guy that mentally, he blocked it perfectly the time before. The next time it was the exact same alignment, the exact same rush/return and he just didn't block a soul, just ran down the field without blocking anybody.
"The second one was perfect, the assignment was perfect, just didn't block him; just physically let him run right by him. That's never happened at practice; didn't happen in Boston College and then all of a sudden it shows up in that game twice and that can't be accepted."
Now, Martin has to be concerned about the mental state of his freshman punter.
"The poor kid didn't have a chance. I told the punt team, you know you guys got a freshman punter back here that's off to a great start and now you just brain-damaged him," Martin said. "I told (Rinehart) this is a test of your character. Can you come out in this next game and show no effects of that. He did a tremendous job (Sunday) night (at practice). I actually had 22 defensive people rushing the punt last night at one time and he did a great job; got it off in time before they all got there and didn't show any effects of it, kicked the ball really well."
Martin's practice ploy wasn't the only way he's dealing with the issue. He also challenged his players to get the job done.
"At some point the players at Kent State got to step up and take some responsibility," he said. "This one right here at Iowa State is on the players and I've never said that before around here and I don't like saying it, I'm usually very strong advocate protecting those guys, but I'm telling you that Iowa State deal was on them and they better rebound this week or they won't again play the rest of the season."
This weekend against Delaware State, Kent State's punt team will have a new signal caller as Martin has added sophomore Brian Lainhart to the unit.
"I know Lainhart is a guy that I'm going to put back there as the personal protector on the punt team just because he's a guy that I trust that will put us in the right call," Martin said. "That was one of our problems the other night too, we didn't get a call made correctly from the back end. Brian does that for our defense, puts us in correct calls all the time. So, I'm hoping he's bright enough and (has) enough football savvy to handle that team."
Lainhart isn't the only starter on the unit.
"We don't have very many guys that aren't starters that are on that team," Martin said. "Our starting linebackers are all on our punt team, Monte Simmons starts on our punt team, a defensive lineman. We're just trying to find the best 11."
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