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No. 25 Kent State shooting for MAC title game

No. 25 Kent State shooting for MAC title game

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) It has been four long and brutal decades for Kent State since it last appeared in The Associated Press college football poll.

How long?

The 1973 team that last reached the rankings was led by linebacker Jack Lambert and had a graduate assistant named Nick Saban.

How brutal?

There have been four winless seasons since 1980 and only two winning ones, the last one coming 11 years ago.

Maybe that's why second-year Kent State coach Darrell Hazell has downplayed the No. 25 Golden Flashes' return to the rankings this week. Or maybe it's because they face what looks to be their biggest Mid-American Conference test so far on Saturday at Bowling Green.

With a victory Kent State (9-1, 6-0 MAC) will clinch a spot in its first conference title game and set a school record for most wins in a season. A loss would give Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1) the inside lane to the MAC East Division title and the league championship game in Detroit.

``We'll worry about the rankings when the season's over,'' Hazell said. ``We don't have time to concern ourselves with rankings right now.''

His players have followed suit.

``We know the significance of this game,'' offensive lineman Josh Kline said.

It's so big that the university has lined up several buses to bring Kent State students to the game.

The Golden Flashes and Falcons are very much alike, with both relying on a physical, grind-it-out style to win games.

``You're probably looking in the mirror a little bit,'' Hazell said.

Kent State has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in running backs Trayion Durham, a 250-pound bruiser, and the speedy Dri Archer, who's also a dangerous kick returner.

``They're two different types of backs,'' offensive lineman Brian Winters said. ``That's what makes the defense confused. They don't know if we're going to pass it, run it fast or go up the middle.''

Archer and Durham have run for more than 100 yards in the same game three times this season. In the most recent - against Miami (Ohio) - they rolled up 323.

``It's really the one-two punch every coach dreams of having,'' Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said.

But they'll face a Falcons defense that is tough against the run, giving up just 104 yards per game.

``It's strength,'' Clawson said, ``against strength.''

Defensive tackle Chris Jones anchors the Bowling Green line and is second in the nation with 17 tackles for a loss. He's also tops in the country with 11.5 sacks.

The Falcons rely on sophomore running back Anthon Samuel who was the conference's freshman of the year last season. He already has 1,750 yards in his career and ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio just over a week ago.

They'll need Samuel to keep the ball away from Kent State's dynamic duo at running back.

The biggest weak spot for Kent State is its pass defense, which is allowing 279 yards per game.

Bowling Green junior quarterback Matt Schilz has plenty of experience, but he's been inconsistent and threw for under 100 yards his last two games.

Kent State's remarkable transformation began a year ago against Bowling Green, so perhaps the Flashes can build off those memories. The program was 1-6 and on its way to a typical disappointing season a year ago, when Hazell and his assistants decided to change the offense and commit to the running game.

The Flashes beat the Falcons 27-15 and have won 13 of 15 since then. The current winning streak of eight games is longest in school history.

``This team continues to amaze,'' said Hazell, who spent seven seasons as an assistant at Ohio State. ``They've really figured out how to win.''

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The human side of the NHL's trade deadline

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USA TODAY Sports

The human side of the NHL's trade deadline

Congratulations! You just got a new job. There’s just one catch: it’s in a new city.

Oh, and by the way, you start tomorrow. Good luck.

That would be a pretty big shock for anyone, but it is the reality that hockey players constantly face and one that is exacerbated as the trade deadline approaches.

“I know fans and media get really excited about it, but they're not the ones that have to pick up and move their families,” Brooks Orpik said following Sunday’s practice. “I think players are looked at as kind of objects at times, just a number. People don't know there's a human side to trades.”

This season’s NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. on Monday. Until then, every locker room faces a degree of uncertainty.

RELATED: KEMPNY GETS QUICK PROMOTION TO THE TOP-FOUR

Almost no player or prospect is untouchable. Even if there are no rumors surrounding a team or things seem set, the threat of a trade hangs over the heads of the players like the sword of Damocles until the deadline finally comes and goes.

Even for those players who know they won’t be moved or who can’t be moved because of various clauses in their contracts, it still remains a stressful time as they could still see friends shipped to another city.

“I think what happens on that day is all the players, as soon as they get off the ice at morning skate, they're all looking at their phones and trying to see what happens,” Barry Trotz said. “They want to see what happens around the league.”

Sure, a player can go from a last place team to a contender. On the surface, they should be happy. Behind the scenes, however, midseason trades always carry family implications.

“It's tough on guys,” Orpik said. “Guys have kids in schools or have roots in the community of the teams they play for. As fun as it is for some people, I think as players it can definitely be nerve-wracking for people.”

MORE CAPITALS: TRADE TO CAPS POTENTIALLY OFFERS JERABEK WHAT HE NEVER GOT IN MONTREAL

When those trades do happen, they obviously can throw a player’s life upside-down.

For those players who are not traded, the team has to adjust both to losing familiar faces and to embracing new ones into the locker room.

“When someone comes into a new group, it's not much changed except for obviously a new piece,” Jay Beagle said. “But it's definitely harder on them so you try to make it as easy as possible on them.”

Thus far, the Capitals have added defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek over the past week. While both trades were done in exchange for draft picks, Taylor Chorney was a casualty of the trades as he was placed on waivers to make room for the new additions and was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It's tough losing guys, especially guys that are well-liked in our room,” Orpik said. “Taylor Chorney is a really well-liked guy so I think that impacted us a little bit.”

On Monday, fans, analysts, players and coaches alike will all be frantically checking their phones looking for the latest trade news, but while the deadline brings excitement for fans, it bears very different feelings for the players involved. Those players are people working a job and those trades mean uprooting their life in a matter of days. Regardless of whether a player is better off in terms of the team situation, there is still a human cost to doing business.

“It can affect certain guys because their names are obviously spread all over the place,” Trotz said. “They're human too. They pretend to not hear it, but they do.”

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Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

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Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

After two games, it looks like Michal Kempny is already moving up in the lineup.

At Sunday’s practice, Kempny played on the team's second defensive pairing, lining up on the left of John Carlson. Previously, the Czech defenseman had been playing on the right of Brooks Orpik. The move to the left allows him to play on his natural side as he is a left-handed shot.

Here are the pairs from Sunday’s practice:

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Christian Djoos
Jakub Jerabek – Madison Bowey

Acquired on Monday from the Chicago Blackhawks, Kempny has played in two games for the Capitals and has received glowing reviews thus far.

“He's a really good pro, that's what sticks out,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He takes care of himself, he works at his game off the ice and with the guys, he has fit in very well.”

RELATED: THE TRADE TO WASHINGTON OFFERS JERABEK THE CHANCE HE NEVER SEEMED TO GET IN MONTREAL

“I've gotten to play a little bit with [Kempny] the last couple games,” Brooks Orpik said. “I think he's a guy that, he moves pretty well and he moves the puck pretty well and likes to keep things pretty simple. He's very consistent and predictable so he's very easy to play with.”

When the Capitals first acquired Kempny, it seemed like the best fit for him would be alongside Carlson. It’s a natural fit with Kempny being a left-shot and Carlson a righty. It also bumps down Christian Djoos to a third-pair role which is preferable to having a rookie in the top-four come the playoffs.

Should Kempny play well with Carlson, that would likely solidify Washington’s top two pairs. The Orlov-Niskanen pair was not going to be changed and Carlson was going to be on the second pair. The only question was who would ultimately play with him in the postseason?

The third pair, however, remains a work in progress.

The Caps will have to wait at least another day for the debut of their second recent acquisition as Jakub Jerabek cannot yet play due to visa issues and will miss Monday's game, reports Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Considering the issues Washington has had on defense, they would not have brought in another defenseman just to be a healthy scratch. He will get his shot to earn a spot in the lineup.

With two new defensemen in tow, obviously the team will need to experiment over the next few days and weeks to find the right combinations.

“We're going to have to probably spend at least the next 10 to 12 games doing that and then we'll have to sort of settle in,” Trotz said. “With eight defenseman, you sort of want to see which guys you’re going to play and who to play as partners and sort of a little bit of ranking. If someone goes down, who's filling that extra role?”

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