Wisconsin Football hosts Kent State this weekend in a welcome reprieve from Big Ten play. Who are the 5 Golden Flashes that Badger fans should be aware of?
Wisconsin’s matchup with Kent State at Camp Randall this weekend is coming at an excellent time for the Badgers.
Sure, Bucky managed to pull out a win against Northwestern, but it was an ugly one: you never want to see your defense outscore your offense. While the performance of Jim Leonhard’s unit was extremely encouraging and only cemented my belief that Wisconsin’s defense deserves to be discussed among the nation’s elite, you can’t help but be a little concerned at the step back this offense took compared to how it has looked the rest of the season, even if its struggles came against a program the Badgers always seem to have problems with.
However, Jack Coan, Jonathan Taylor, and company will have a prime opportunity to get back to clicking on all cylinders against the Golden Flashes on Saturday before resuming the brutal Big Ten schedule.
While it’s dangerous to ever underestimate any opponent, Kent State hasn’t exactly wowed anyone so far this season. Its only victories have come over less-than-stellar opponents in Kennesaw State and Bowling Green, and the Golden Flashes got destroyed by a 55-16 margin at the hands of the Auburn Tigers, a similarly-talented team to Wisconsin, a few weeks ago. Vegas is expecting a similar margin of victory for the Badgers, who currently sit as the 36-point favorite in this matchup. Simply put, this should be a great chance for this offense to give itself a much-needed boost of confidence.
While I would hope that there’s no point in this game where Kent State is even competitive, let alone in a position to steal a win, crazier things have certainly happened in college football over the years. If the Golden Flashes are going to give the Badgers a run for their money, they will need these five players to step up and lead the way.
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1. Dustin Crum – Quarterback
2019 stats: 70.9% passing, 697 yds, 5 TD, 0 INT/38 rush, 140 yds (3.8 avg), 1 TD
Kent State’s fortunes against Wisconsin will largely ride on the arm (and legs) of its junior signal-caller.
Crum has gotten off to an excellent start this season for the Golden Flashes, currently leading the MAC in completion percentage and passing efficiency rating. Some of the snaps under center still go to Auburn transfer Woody Barrett, who was expected to be the team’s starter this season, but Crum has started the last two games and now gets lion’s share. He might just be their best player at this stage in the season and the guy the Wisconsin defense has to plan the most for, especially coming off of a huge game last time out (26/31, 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions).
Additionally, though his current rushing numbers are mediocre, Crum certainly falls under the umbrella of a dual-threat quarterback with his mobility. He should provide a nice test for the Badgers as they look ahead to their next opponent, Michigan State, who also possesses a signal-caller who can beat you on the ground in Brian Lewerke.
2. Jo-El Shaw – Running Back
2019 stats: 5.1 YPC, 278 yds, 2 TD
Joachim Bangda and Xavier Williams will get some carries sprinkled in as well, but Shaw, Kent State’s leading rusher, is unquestionably the bell cow at running back. Statistically speaking, the Golden Flashes’ rushing attack is the team’s most productive unit on both sides of the ball (No. 54 nationally in yards/attempt, No. 53 in rushing yards/game), and a lot of that success is because of Shaw, a 6’1, 230-pound bruiser in the backfield. He’s also coming off a big day against Bowling Green in which he racked up 109 yards and two scores on just 15 carries.
The Golden Flashes will need to build on that success on Saturday to stay competitive with the Badgers.
3. Isaiah McKoy – Wide Receiver
2019 stats: 18 rec, 288 yds (16.0 avg), 3 TD
If this game goes as we expect it to, Kent State will likely go to the air quite a bit early and often once it finds itself down big against the Badgers and struggling to get back in the game. As the Golden Flashes’ top receiver, McKoy should receive more than his fair share of targets in this one.
The 6’3 sophomore should present a nice challenge for Wisconsin’s corners in coverage with his length, and he has also come up big against Top Ten competition this season: McKoy recorded 4 receptions for 85 yards and a score against then-No.8 Auburn two weeks ago.
4. Matt Bahr – Linebacker
2019 stats: 26 tackles (17 solo), 3.0 TFL
While Crum might be Kent State’s best offensive player, Bahr probably holds that honor on the other side of the ball. The leader of this defense as a sixth-year senior and team captain, he led the Golden Flashes in total tackles last season (91) and currently is tied for third on that list with Qwuantrezz Knight (more on him below) this year, even though he has only appeared in three out of four games. Bahr will be leading the charge of a front seven that will have the gargantuan task of making yards hard to come by on the ground for Jonathan Taylor.
5. Qwuantrezz Knight – Safety
2019 stats: 26 tackles (22 solo), 2.0 TFL
Bahr heads the front seven, but Knight is Kent State’s leader on the back end of the defense as a guy who actually has significant experience playing in the Big Ten.
This is the redshirt junior’s first season with the Golden Flashes, as he spent his first two seasons of eligibility at Maryland. Knight saw a good amount of action during his time in College Park before deciding to hit the road, appearing in 22 games and recording 39 tackles. While he obviously wasn’t a star for the Terrapins, it will only serve to benefit Kent State to have a Big Ten-caliber player in its secondary as it looks to keep Jack Coan’s frustrations going in the passing game.
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference