Breakdown: Kent State’s defense

By Brian Belford

Defensive Line

Sophomore defensive end Roosevelt Nix will be the man to watch in the trenches for the Golden Flashes. Nix was named to the Bednarik and Nagurski watch lists, awards that honor the nation’s top defensive player. He was also forecasted to be an All-MAC first team selection this year. Nix has lived up to these lofty expectations, recording two sacks and 13 tackles while anchoring a defensive line that has Kent State ranked fifth in the MAC in rushing defense.

NIU senior starting center Scott Wedige said the offense will have to be aware of where Nix is on the field.

“He’s a playmaker and he has a relentless motor,” Wedige said. “He’s extremely quick, he uses his hands well and likes to [use the swim move]. You have to be ready for someone like that and be aware of where he’s at at all times.” Grade: B-


Juniors Luke Batton and C.J. Malauulu highlight a linebacking corps that has helped force 10 fumbles and recorded a total of 13 turnovers through five games. Batton leads the Golden Flashes in tackles, while Malauulu leads the team in tackles for a loss and in sacks. Malauulu was named the MAC East’s Defensive Player of the Week after his performance against Ohio, in which he had 12 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Wedige said the Huskies will have to be able to recognize the blitz to be able to stop Malauulu.

“[Malauulu] likes to come off the edge and blitz,” Wedige said. “They like to bring a lot of different blitzes, so we have to know our blitz recognition, know where it’s coming from and be able to pick it up.” Grade: B

Defensive Backs

Senior defensive backs Norman Wolfe and Josh Pleasant and sophomore safety Luke Wollet have combined for six of the Golden Flashes’ eight interceptions. Kent State’s secondary ranks seventh in the MAC in passing defense, allowing an average of 203 yards through the air in five games. Wollet was named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week in game four against South Alabama. Wolfe and Pleasant hold things together with experience and veteran savvy in the secondary.

NIU senior quarterback Chandler Harnish said Kent State’s secondary will definitely be a challenge.

“Their secondary flies around,” Harnish said. “[In] the Alabama game, they forced Alabama into three interceptions. They’re definitely a good defense [and] huge challenge for us.” Grade: B

Special Teams

Senior punter Matt Rinehart holds the highest career punting average in school history with 41.5 yards per punt. He is also a two-time first-team All-MAC selection. Rinehart has a strong leg that could win the field position battle for Kent State and has routinely had punts of over 50 yards or more this season. Junior placekicker Freddy Cortez has been accurate all season, making all four of his field goal attempts and converting on six of his seven extra point attempts, and has shown that he can split the uprights from long distance. Grade: A