It is not a much-desired BCS bowl, but Kent State is still headed to its first bowl game in 40 years, playing on Jan. 6 against Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
A double-overtime loss to Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference Championship game Friday in Detroit dashed the Flashes’ (11-2) hopes of moving from No. 17 in the BCS poll into the top 16 in order to land a BCS berth.
Still, there’s no shame in Kent State finishing the season ranked No. 25 and set to face the Sun Belt Conference champion Red Wolves (9-3, 7-1) at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
“I’m fired up,” Kent State coach Darrell Hazell said. “I don’t know much about Arkansas State yet, but I heard they’re good and I expect it to be a good football game.”
But the loss to the Huskies does still sting, as the Flashes watched them move up in the polls Sunday from No. 21 to No. 15, and land the coveted Orange Bowl berth that has Northern Illinois slated to face No. 12 Florida State (11-2) on Jan 1.
“I’m sure many of the guys still feel bad about the game, in fact, I’m positive they do,” Hazell said. “But I honestly don’t feel like that. We played a good football team and they found enough ways to beat us.”
Now, the Huskies (12-1, 8-0) are set to make the MAC’s first BCS bowl appearance as a record seven MAC programs received bowl invitations late Sunday.
In addition to Kent State and Northern Illinois, Toledo (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), Ball State (Beef O’Brady’s Bowl), Bowling Green (Military Bowl), Ohio (Independence Bowl) and Central Michigan (Little Caesars Pizza Bowl) will play.
The Flashes are making their first bowl appearance since 1972 when the “Don James Gang” lost 21-18 to Tampa in the Tangerine Bowl, and they will be seeking their first win in three tries. Kent State also lost its first bowl game — a 19-7 defeat by Delaware — in the Refrigerator Bowl in 1954.
Bowl games weren’t the only topic of conversation regarding the Flashes on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, ESPN caused quite a stir among Flashes fans and supporters when it reported that Hazell was interviewing for the California coaching vacancy.
Hazell, who has one year remaining on his original three-year contract at Kent State, would neither confirm nor deny the report.
“My focus is on this Kent State football team like it always has been,” he said.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.