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Huskies defense focuses on Flashes' Archer

Caption
(AP photo)
Kent State's Dri Archer runs away from Ohio's Josh Kristoff (left) and Antwan Crutcher during the first quarter on Nov. 23 in Kent, Ohio.

Opposing defenses haven’t been able to stop Kent State running back Dri Archer this season.

Kickoff units haven’t had a ton of luck either.

Archer, a junior from Laurel, Fla., can beat teams from the backfield, as evidenced by his 1,337 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He averages a whopping 9.7 yards a carry.

When the Golden Flashes decide to line the speedster up as a wide receiver, he can challenge defenses there as well. Archer leads Kent State with 458 receiving yards and four touchdown catches.

One of the first challenges defenses face when matching up against the Kent State offense is just looking to see where Archer lines up.

NIU’s defense will certainly have its eye on No. 1 this Friday, when the Huskies take on the Golden Flashes in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in Detroit.

In Huskie Stadium practices this week, true freshman wide receiver Charlie Miller is playing the role of Archer for NIU’s scout team offense.

“That is an emphasis we are having this week to point him out because their offense does really go through [Archer],” senior linebacker Victor Jacques said. “We are making that an emphasis to point him out and know where he’s at.”

Locating Archer is just one of many problems he can cause. Archer is also a load to handle in the kicking game as well, averaging 38 yards a kickoff return, good for first in the entire country. Archer has brought three kickoffs back for touchdowns.

Second-year Golden Flashes coach Darrell Hazell said opposing teams haven’t kicked to his freak athlete in roughly six weeks. Now, teams are starting to squib the ball, and the Flashes offense keeps starting possessions near its own 40-yard line.

When he’s in at tailback, Archer can be used to run inside or outside, or in the zone-read game. NIU coach Dave Doeren said Kent State will use him in a number of different ways as a receiver,

“Very versatile player. Plays hard,” Doeren said. “Can accelerate from zero to as fast as he can run on one step. I think that’s what really sets him apart.”

To Archer, he’s dangerous no matter where he’s lined up.

“I feel like I’m at my best whenever the ball’s in my hands,” Archer said. “I like the ball in my hands, I like to make plays.”

During the first two months of the season, Hazell didn’t want to overuse his top athlete, trying to limit him to his touches. Archer only had eight carries in four out of Kent State’s first five games, but the touches have been increasing since then.

Hazell didn’t want Archer taking too many hits. He wanted to make sure he had Archer healthy for the stretch run.

Archer’s healthy, and will be the Golden Flashes’ most important player in Friday’s Mid-American Conference Championship Game against Northern Illinois.

The Huskies will certainly know where he’s at at all times.

“When we got into November, we said we need to get him as many touches as we needed to win the football game,” Hazell said. “Because of that, I think he’s relatively healthy and ready to go.”

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