2006 Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: Virginia Tech vs. Kent State

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Will Virginia Tech get a much needed breather this Saturday when the Kent
State Golden Flashes visit Lane Stadium, or will the Hokies experience the same
difficulties that the Michigan Wolverines had with the Ball State Cardinals last
week in the Big House? No one needs to remind Virginia Tech fans of how
dangerous MAC schools can be, after Miami (Ohio) upset Tech several years ago.
This week the Hokies host an improved Kent State squad that was in contention
for the Mid-American East Division title until Ohio knocked the Golden Flashes
off two weeks ago. Virginia Tech needs to come ready to play because the Hokies
have basically become Kent State’s bowl game for this year.

A year ago Kent State was one of the worst teams in D-1 football, having an
inept offense and porous defense, but some coaching changes and new personnel
have greatly improved the Golden Flashes. First and foremost Kent State is much
healthier this year, as last year’s offense was decimated by injuries. At one
time all five starting offensive linemen from the beginning of the season were
injured and out of action. In addition, Kent State had six running backs injured
during the season. Redshirts were taken off true freshmen and players were
forced to move to new positions to adapt to the unusual rash of injuries.

As the result of last year’s 1-10 season, coaching and personnel changes
had to be made. Kent State has changed from a more conventional pass-oriented
offense to a version of the spread option popularized by West Virginia. The
Golden Flashes have abandoned the zone blocking scheme that confused their young
offensive line and gone to a simpler man-on-man blocking approach. As a result
Kent State has gone from possibly the worst rushing offense in the country last
year, averaging a meager 1.8 yards per carry, to a respectable running game