By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
KENT — The Kent State University football team will be playing in just its fourth bowl game in program history Friday, when it travels to Texas to take on Utah State in the Frisco Bowl.
And the Golden Flashes — playing in their first bowl game since 2012 — will have a familiar name to Piqua football fans in the starting lineup.
Former Piqua standout defensive end/tight end Nate Monnin — who was recruited as a tight end — is one of the starting offensive guards for Kent State.
“I actually moved to offensive line a week before my sophomore season started,” Monnin said. “Our numbers at offensive line were small and I was a heavier tight end. That made it an easy decision for the coaches to pursue me to switch positions.
“And after a lot of nights during camp of talking to numerous coaches individually about how it would be a smart decision for me to make the move to the line and how it would benefit the team I eventually decided to make the switch. It wasn’t an easy decision, especially because originally I envisioned my career to go down a different path playing a different position.”
Monnin said he had some help after making the switch.
“My roommate is our starting center and has been like a brother away from home,” Monnin said. “I would have to say he has helped me adjust my position change the most. It’s nice when your roommate, teammate and best friend can help you with your footwork, watch film with you, and push you to be the best player you can be and get to play right next to him.”
Monnin said there was still a big adjustment for him.
”The biggest adjustment from playing tight end switching to guard is definitely the type of player you have to block,” he said. “Plus, you can solely focus on blocking. Playing guard you have to block bigger and stronger guys where as at tight end you usually block more agile and quicker guys.
“Another big adjustment was having to gain weight to be able to compete with other MAC defenses. I ended up playing in our fourth game against Ole Miss and started my first college football game against Ball State the following week.”
Monnin said this season’s 6-6 record with a second-place finish in the MAC East in Sean Lewis’ second year as coach is not a surprise.
While going 2-10 a year ago, the offensive improved by more than 100 yards and 11 points per game. Three of the six losses this year were to Arizona State, Auburn and Wisconsin.
”This season we returned the majority of our starters from last year and everybody has started to get comfortable with the new offense,” Monnin said. “Last year we went 2-10 with a couple close games that we didn’t win. This year we’ve managed to win several of those close games and still have room for improvement. We ended up the season with a record of 6-6 this year going 5-3 in conference games.
“We have the best specialists in our conference and that has helped us win a couple of our games this year.”
Kent State kicker Matthew Trickett has kicked three game-winning field goals.
”Plus, we arguably have the best quarterback and wide receiver in the conference,” Monnin said. “Isaiah McKoy lead the MAC in yards per game and TDs per game. And our quarterback, Dustin Crum lead the MAC in passing efficiency with 2,333 yards 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
“We also have multiple solid running backs. Our explosive offense has continued to help our team succeed. Our defense has also been playing solid lately. Another thing that allowed Kent to have this kind of season is our strength staff.
“Coach Sobol has made significant improvements in everyone’s PRs (personal records) for lifts in the past two years and he has conditioned us to be warriors on the field. Plus, every position coach has embraced their players and have worked to get us to play at our full potential.”
Kent State had to win its final three games to become bowl eligible.
”Everyone on our team knew we had to go 6-6 to be bowl eligible and 9 games into the season we were looking at a 3-6 record,” Monnin said. “We went on to win against Buffalo and Ball State by two back-to-back game winning field goals. All we needed was this last win to become eligible and Eastern Michigan was 6-5 at this point so a win would guarantee a bowl spot for them, so it was a big game.”
Kent State ran out the clock to finish off the win.
“When we ended the game in victory formation, the feeling hit me that we were bowl eligible,” Monnin said. “Whenever we shook hands and got back to the locker room everyone was going crazy. One guy brought his bowling ball to the game and was bowling in the locker room using people as the pins. It was a great feeling knowing we had a chance to play one more game this year.”
There was still a possibility Kent State wouldn’t be selected for a bowl.
”We weren’t going to find out until bowl selection Sunday if we made it or not so we still had practices, even though we could get denied of a bowl game,” Monnin said. “We were ready. We had a meeting that Sunday and that’s when Coach Lewis revealed that we had made a bowl game and that we were going to Frisco, Texas to play in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl. I couldn’t help, but smile and be excited to play with my teammates one more time this year.”
Kent State has never won a bowl game and the team is looking to change that.
“Numerous alumni including Julian Eldeman, Josh Cribbs, Rosie Nix, Brian Winters have sent videos congratulating us and challenging us to bring home a bowl game win which means a lot coming from them,” Monnin said. “A bowl win will make Kent State football history. This is only Kent’s 4th bowl game appearance ever and would be the first ever bowl game win. Our last bowl appearances were in 2012 and 1972 (along with 1954).”
And while the focus is on Saturday, Monnin and the team have high hopes for next season.
”Without a doubt this gives us bigger expectations for next year,” Monnin said. “Our goal is to win the MAC next year and I believe we can do just that. Coach Lewis always says that once we have raised the standard we will never think it’s okay to perform below that new standard.
“So our standard is always being raised and will continue to raise. We can never be content at where we are.”
Monnin has fond memories of his days as an Indian, playing for coach Bill Nees.
”Playing for Piqua has prepared me a lot for the physical side of my college experience because of the talent I practiced with/against,” Monnin said. “Every day I would go up against Tristen Cox, one of the strongest guys I know and a great defensive linemen for Elon right now and also Derek Hite who is playing defensive line at Youngstown State.
”Plus, the great coaching at Piqua led by Coach Nees. He’s a guy you like playing for and want to do well for even past playing for him at a different level. Every person he coaches is essentially a product of what he made. I’m very thankful for his advice and honesty that led me to making my decision to go to Kent State as well.”
And has led to his opportunity to make history Friday and help bring home the school’s first bowl win.
Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at email@example.com.
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