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Huskies have eyes on Archer

(AP photo)
Kent State’s Dri Archer runs away from Ohio’s Josh Kristoff (left) and Antwan Crutcher on Nov. 23 in Kent, Ohio. Archer, who averages 9.7 yards a carry, and the Gold Flashes will play Northern Illinois on Friday in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in Detroit.

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

In Huskie Stadium practices this week, freshman 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 only one of many problems he can cause. Archer also is a load to handle in the kicking game, averaging 38 yards a kickoff return, good for first in the country. Archer has brought three kickoffs back for touchdowns.

Second-year Golden Flashes coach Darrell Hazell said opposing teams haven’t kicked to his gifted athlete in about 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 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 is healthy, and will be the Golden Flashes’ most important player in Friday’s game against NIU.

The Huskies certainly will 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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