Kent State Football Head Coach Kenni Burns (Right) at his introductory press conference with Athletic Director Randale L. Richmond (Photo Credit: WOIO 19 - Cleveland)
The Kent State Golden Flashes football team is set to embark on a new era under Head Coach Kenni Burns. Burns replaces outgoing coach Sean Lewis, who heads to Boulder, Colorado as "Coach Prime" Deion Sanders' Offensive Coordinator. Hired in December, Burns comes to Kent by way of the Twin Cities, serving as Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs Coach under Coach PJ Fleck at the University of Minnesota since 2019. Coach Burns is no stranger to #MACtion however, serving under Fleck while "Rowing The Boat" in Kalamazoo at Western Michigan in 2016, a year that saw the Broncos finish ranked #26 nationally, a MAC Championship crown, and a trip to the Cotton Bowl. More recently, under the tutelage of Coach Burns, the Golden Gophers ranked 11th best in the nation on the ground in 2022 and during his tenure surpassed 2,000 yards each season with a per-game average of at least 170 yards.
In his time before joining forces with Fleck, Coach Burns served as the Wide Receivers coach at FCS South Dakota State. While with the Bisons, Burns was a part of 3 National Championships in his 4 seasons there (2010-2013). He then made the jump, with his peers at South Dakota State to Wyoming under the lead of Craig Bohl for the 2014 campaign.
As for his time as a student-athlete, Burns went to Indiana University where he played Running Back, graduating in 2006. In 2004, he was awarded the Iron Man Award, given to the Hoosier that played the most snaps during that season.
While under Sean Lewis, the Flashes abided by the #FlashFast mantra, often leading the nation in offensive plays per game and trying to snap the ball within 10-15 seconds of the 40-second play clock. The quick-hitting offense was enough to capture the eye of one of the biggest personalities college football has to offer in Deion Sanders. With Coach Burns' expertise being the run game, fans may be re-introduced to a more traditional offensive pace and a more regionally accepted brand of smash-mouth football. It will be interesting in the first year or two of Burns' tenure to see how a roster formed with a run-and-gun style handles such a change.
Kent State Gold lines up for a Red Zone attempt.
In what was tabbed as the "Flash Bowl" by Coach Burns, the Blue faced off against the Gold in a right of passage in college football. There was a running clock throughout, so time was of the essence. The scoring got underway in the latter stages of the 1st quarter. The Gold team, coming off a fumble recovery by defensive back D.J. Miller used a big catch and run by Luke Floriea of near 50 yards to get into the red zone. The Blue defense got Gold into a 4th down situation that Gold opted to go for and was successful on a Quarterback keeper by Tommy Ulatowski to set up a 1st and Goal situation. The Gold team was able to punch it through on a 2 yard run by Xavier Williams. After a successful extra point, the Gold team held a 7-0 lead, which would be the score at the end of 1.
Kent State Blue takes the snap near midfield.
The Blue team answered in the 2nd quarter on a drive that was capped off on a Gavin Garcia touchdown run from 8 yards out. Earlier in that drive, running back Ky Thomas was the workhorse to get them down into the Goal to go situation, with runs of 14 and 10 to get them into the shadows of the goal line. The Blue team opted to go for the two point conversion as opposed to trying to tie it at 7, but the attempt, an end around with Wide Receiver Dash Dorsey was stopped short, making the score 7-6 in advantage of the Gold team. That score would hold through the remainder of the 1st half.
There was no firework show at halftime, but the 2nd half started with a bang. On the first play from scrimmage, the Gold team came out with some 'razzle dazzle'. What started as a run play with Garcia led to a flea flicker to Floriea who then found a wide open Trell Harris down the right sideline that he corralled and ran the remaining 30 yards of the 75 yard TD pass. After the game I asked Floriea if he could recall his last touchdown pass and he stated
"Junior Year of High School (for the Mentor Cardinals)".
The Gold also went for 2 after the touchdown but like their Blue counterparts, the attempt was unsuccessful, making the score 13-6.
Both teams come together at midfield following their Spring Game Scrimmage.
There was a lull in action after that big time play, with the next notable action coming in the 4th quarter when Garcia broke free for a 23 yard scamper to the 1 yard line. It took all 4 downs, but Garcia was finally able to break the plane of the goal line for his second visit to pay dirt on the day for the Blue Squad. With the score 13-12 in the waning moments of the game, instead of going for a tie, they would attempt another 2 point conversion. This time, they would try to succeed through the air but Linebacker Nicholas Giacolone was there on a slant across the middle to break up the attempt and secure victory for the Gold team.
The waning seconds of the Flash Bowl tick away.
Head Coach Kenni Burns: "Garcia runs the ball how I like the ball to be run." "Want to run a balanced attack on offensive, will probably need to throw it a little more in season".
Defensive Back DJ Miller: "Super excited for the season, everyone has a chance to step up and that's what we've done all spring".
Defensive Lineman CJ West: "Us being one unit is the big thing. Coming together to communicate". (DJ MIller and West only returning starters on either side of ball) "Me and DJ are leaders, making sure everyone knows their assignments and plays and once we gel, everything comes easily".
Wide Receiver Luke Floriea: With no set starter at QB, "Making everyone in the QB room better. Every guy comes to work everyday to get better."
Running Back Gavin Garcia: "Really liked offense last year, a lot of similar schemes this year (despite new HC)". "We have a great (RB) room, we continually push each other, no one can slack".