CFN GoDaddy Analysis - Ark St 17, Kent St 13
Posted Jan 7, 2013

CFN's thoughts and analysis on Arkansas State's win over Kent State

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

1) First, Northern Illinois couldn't deliver the goods versus Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Now, this.

It's true that the Bowl isn't in the Orange Bowl's league, but this was a matchup between the Mid-American Conference's runner-up – the Kent State team that almost took Northern Illinois's place in the BCS – and the Sun Belt Conference champion. Perhaps this game didn't draw a lot of national attention (especially since it occurs on Jan. 6 and is completely overshadowed by both the NFL and the pre-national championship game buildup), but it mattered in terms of establishing the relative quality of the MAC and Sun Belt for the 2012 season. This was a game the MAC definitely had to have after Northern Illinois performed poorly in prime time on New Year's Night. Kent State's feeble offensive showing will make 2012 a season of missed opportunities in the land of "Maction."

2) The MAC's loss is the Sun Belt's gain. The MAC held the upper hand in the past three GMAC or (now) Bowl meetings. Northern Illinois beat Arkansas State last season. Miami University upset Middle Tennessee at the end of the 2010 season. Central Michigan bested Troy in a genuine classic at the end of the 2009 college football campaign. The ability of Arkansas State to not only win this game, but win it with flint and steel on defense, sends a loud message about the strength of the Sun Belt, with Bryan Harsin getting ready to lead the Red Wolves to a league championship three-peat in 2013. Forget Western Kentucky with Bobby Petrino; Arkansas State is the Sun Belt program that has built its brand the most over the past two years.

3) Kent State, this is what you get for punting twice in plus-territory in a bowl game. This isn't Bengals-Texans. Go for the brass ring and take some chances. The Golden Flashes treated this game with caution, and college football can't be treated that way on most occasions, especially not in a bowl game.

4) If you thought a month ago that the Ohio Bobcats would easily produce the MAC's best bowl showing, raise your hand.

Richard Cirminiello

So impressed was new Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin by the preparation of interim head coach John Thompson that he decided to retain him as the Red Wolves defensive coordinator. Thompson validated that decision by leading the team to its first win over a ranked opponent in a decade.

Fittingly, the Red Wolves sealed their victory with a great defensive play, an open-field tackle by LB Qushaun Lee on fourth down that ended Kent State's bid to continue a potential game-winning drive. The play was a microcosm for the entire night, one marked by improbably good defensive play from both teams.

Doggone injury to Golden Flashes RB Dri Archer. It robbed all of us of seeing a little more of one of the true hidden gems at the FBS level. He is as exciting and as versatile as any player in America, a playmaker the country is going to see a lot of for a very long time. How in the world does he get out of high school in 2009 with just one scholarship offer?

Kudos to Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell. No maiden bowl win for this program, but he showed a lot of class by finishing this assignment with the Flashes, while also juggling his new gig at Purdue. He'll leave a lasting imprint at the university that'll remain for at least the next couple of years.

Harsin's first order of business will be to develop a successor to QB Ryan Aplin, one of the more influential athletes to ever play for the program. He's had much better games with the Red Wolves, but fittingly ended his career with a victory. The new staff hopes all of the young hurlers on the roster, like rookies Stephen Hogan, Zach Davis, Fredi Knighten and Dezmond Stegall, were paying close attention to No. 16 during practice this past fall.