2012 MAC Championship, Kent State vs. Northern Illinois: Dri Archer leads Flashes to title game

Kirk Irwin

Kent State running back Dri Archer is one of the biggest reasons the Golden Flashes will be playing in the MAC Championship Game this weekend against Northern Illinois.

Kent State running back Dri Archer may be small, but his huge play this season has helped propel the Golden Flashes to a No. 17 ranking in the BCS standings and a spot in the MAC Championship Game against the Northern Illinois Huskies.

The 5-foot-8 Archer has been dynamic in multiple phases of the game this season, despite battling nagging ankle injuries. He has 1,337 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 138 carries. He has caught 30 passes for 458 yards and four more touchdowns. He has also returned three kicks for scores and leads the nation in kick-return average.

All of this comes after a 2011 season that saw Archer ruled ineligible due to an error by an academic counselor. The running back worked extra hard this offseason so he would be ready to make big contributions this season (via Ohio.com):

"Once the season was over last year, I was ready," said Archer, who practiced lightly Tuesday after sitting out Sunday's practice. "I knew it was my time to play again and I was going to make the most of it. I hit the weight room as much as I could and got in the film room to study as much as I could, so I was ready to play as soon as we started practicing."

The opposition has taken note of Archer's big-play ability, and many teams have tried to avoid kicking the ball to him. However, this has played right into Kent State's hands, as they have gotten great field position all season because of these tactics.

Kent State coach Darrell Hazel knew he had a special talent on his hands after one specific play in practice earlier this fall:

"I'd seen Dri do some good things before, but there was one moment in practice this fall when we were inside that really opened my eyes as to what he could do," Hazell said. "During this one play when he got into the hole, there were three guys standing there waiting for him. But none of them touched him; they didn't even put a glove on him. That was a ‘Wow!' moment for me."

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