They sat in a darkened room on the first day of training camp, surrounded by the sounds of quarterbacks barking signals, coaches blowing whistles and fans cheering.
Kent State coach Darrell Hazell told his players to close their eyes and visualize what they wanted from this season. The Golden Flashes imagined titles, national rankings, a bowl game.
It has all come true.
“It’s happening,” senior linebacker C.J. Malauulu said. “This is what we dreamed about.”
Malauulu returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown — 12 seconds after another Kent State TD — and the No. 23 Golden Flashes completed a perfect season in the Mid-American Conference with their 10th straight win, 28-6 over Ohio on Friday.
Poland High graduate Luke Wollet returned a fumble 50 yards for Kent’s first score.
The regular-season finale was a tuneup for Kent State (11-1, 8-0 MAC East), which will meet No. 24 Northern Illinois, the league’s West champion, in next week’s MAC championship.
The win allowed the Golden Flashes to continue the best season in the program’s 90-year history and assured they will remain ranked for the first time since 1973.
The Golden Flashes are also guaranteed a bowl invitation, something they haven’t received since 1972, when they played Tampa in the Tangerine Bowl.
If not for a loss to Kentucky in the second game, Kent State would be unbeaten.
“Our guys believe, and we believe what the coaches are telling us,” said quarterback Spencer Keith.
Trayion Durham rushed for 97 yards and scored on a 15-yard run in the first quarter as Kent State built a 21-0 lead.