KENT - It hasn't been since 1973 that Kent State University has had this kind of feeling on the football field.
In front of 18,230 fans on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Kent State officially wrapped up the best regular season in school history with a 28-6 victory over Ohio University. The Golden Flashes' 11-1 record eclipsed the previous school record of 9-2, which was set in 1973.
"Coach (Darrell) Hazell has done a great job of coming in here and turning things around," senior quarterback Spencer Keith said. "We've all responded very well, now we just have to keep it going these last two games."
The two games Keith is referring to the Golden Flashes heading to the Mid-American Conference championship against Northern Illinois this Friday in Detroit. The last game would be a bowl game. The last time the Golden Flashes went to a bowl game was the 1972 Tangerine Bowl.
The turnaround of the Kent State program in a few years happened in the blink of an eye. Hazell, who took over a team that hadn't cracked the .500-mark since 2002, has turned the Golden Flashes into a conference power in just two years as the head coach. Hazell, who had been an assistant at Ohio State since 2004, credited his players for buying into the system quickly and making the changes happen.
"Another great win, and even though we didn't play as well as we would have liked to on offense, I thought we came away with a big win. It made us 8-0 in the conference and that's never been done here before, 11-1 overall," Hazell said.
"I think the biggest thing for me right now is how proud I am of this football team. All the players and coaches in our locker room that keep battling no matter what the circumstances are. They always find a way to come out on the right side."
LOCAL FLAVOR: Friday's game saw numerous players from the Mahoning Valley on the roster for both teams.
The most notable area player on Friday was Kent State strong safety Luke Wollet. On the first drive of the game, Wollet picked up a loose fumble and returned it 50 yards for the Golden Flashes' first score of the day. That was the junior's third touchdown of his career. On the day, Wollet finished with eight tackles.
Also for suiting up for Kent State was Youngstown East graduate Sal Battles, who celebrated senior day and Canfield's Jordan Italiano. Also on Kent State's roster, but did not take the field, are Poland's Colin Reardon and Campbell's Skevo Zembillas.
On the Ohio University roster, two local players are listed, but neither played Friday.
Girard's Landon Smith was having a stellar year for the Bobcats, until he had to have season-ending ankle surgery after the Eastern Michigan game on Nov. 1. When he suffered his injury, Smith was leading Ohio with a 24.8 yards per reception and had eight catches and two touchdowns. He also threw for a touchdown on a 39-yard trick play against Akron.
Also on the Ohio roster is freshman Dayne Hammond of Boardman.
PERFECT ENDING: With the victory over Ohio on Friday, it solidified Kent's perfect record within Mid-American Conference play. The 8-0 conference record is the first time a team has had that record since Miami of Ohio did in 2003. The quarterback of that team was Pittsburgh Steelers' signal caller Ben Roethlisberger.
UP NEXT: No matter what happened against Ohio, Kent was already headed to the MAC title game to represent the Eastern Division. The Golden Flashes clinched that spot after defeating Bowling Green, 31-24, on Nov. 17.
The Golden Flashes will be traveling to Detroit to take on Northern Illinois for their game on Nov. 30. Kickoff from Ford Field at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2.