Gameday goosebumps

Chris Conetzkey

Alvin Bowen has goosebumps. And when you are about to face an opposing quarterback who scrambled for 658 yards and seven touchdowns, those goosebumps just might be warranted.

Don’t worry – they aren’t from fear, but rather excitement. It’s gameday and Bowen has “something” he can use from watching film of Kent State’s scrambling quarterback Julian Edelman.

“I do have something on him, but I’m not going to say anything,” Bowen said. “I’ve seen something that I might be able to capitalize on; that the defense might be able to capitalize on.”

It’s a good thing for the Cyclones that Bowen has something on Edelman, because stopping the Golden Flashes’ dynamic quarterback could be one of the keys to a successful night.

Edelman, now a junior, won the starting job as a junior college transfer from Woodside College of San Mateo, then guided Kent State to a 6-5 record in games he started by way of his legs and arm. Even more impressive is that he played the majority of the second half of the season with a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and missed just one game.

“The more chaotic it is, the better he is; he’s one of those guys,” said Kent State coach Doug Martin. “He is a special athlete now, you’ll enjoy watching him play. I really like it when we play teams with pressure defenses, because if he has a chance to step through the pocket he can hurt you in a variety of ways.”

Edelman is projected by many as one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC, and was just named as one of 35 quarterbacks on the prestigious 2007 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Watch List. Last season he rushed for an average of 64 yards per game, and could pose a variety of challenges for a Cyclones defense that struggled all of last season.

“We know that he is a scrappy quarterback who is going to get outside and make plays,” said defensive end Rashawn Parker. “You just got to be worried that at any given time, that if you get pressure on the quarterback, he is going to flush [the pocket] and take off and run. You have your linebacker core right there to help you out, but the defensive front, it is our responsibility to contain him and keep him in the pocket.”

The one thing that has hamstrung Edelman despite all his talent, is his tendency to turn over the ball.

“I think what we saw with Julian was that he was either really good, or really average because of turnovers,” Martin said. “He is one of those guys, because of his athletic ability, who is always going to play on the edge, just a little bit reckless and there is a real fine line that you don’t want to cross when you play like that. He needs to get out of that mentality that every play needs to be a touchdown.”

The Cyclones have made it a goal to force Edelman into situations that could result in turnovers. In 2006, Edelman threw 11 interceptions and 10 touchdowns.

Last year, the Cyclones created just 15 turnovers, which left them ranked at 106th out of 119 Division I teams – something the new coaching staff knows needs to change.

“Turnovers have been made a huge point of all of two-a-days, and when you are playing fast, physical, aggressive defense. then they happen,” said ISU coach Gene Chizik. “They’re not going to happen if you’re not aggressive, and if you’re not physical at every position.”

Over and over, Cyclone players reiterated the need to contain but still pressure Edelman. Much of the Cyclones’ success hinges on the inexperienced defensive line’s ability to create pressure on the quarterback, while making sure not to over-pursue and allow Edelman to scramble for big gains.

Edelman’s playing style, however, should be something the defense has seen before. Chizik pointed to practice, where the defense consistently faces scramblers like Bret Meyer, Austin Arnaud and Phillip Bates, as a huge advantage for the Cyclones’ defense when it comes to preparing for a quarterback like Edelman.

“Those guys pose the same problems,” Chizik said. “You can’t not do what you do, but I think there are things that you can do in your game plan right now to make sure that when the pocket gets broken, and he [Edelman] is ad-libbing – which he does a lot and he does very well – you have somebody in the area to bring him down. It’s hard to prepare for it, but when you see it everyday in practice it certainly helps.”

If things turn to chaos on Thursday night, it could be up to Bowen to bring down Edelman. Then we’ll find out just how good Bowen’s “something” really is.