Posted: Sunday October 14, 2012 11:29PM ; Updated: Monday October 15, 2012 12:35PM
Stewart Mandel
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Kent State's Dri Archer
Kent State's Dri Archer currently leads the nation with 1,375 all-purpose yards.
Frank DiBrango/Icon SMI

When Dri Archer completed the 40-yard dash during winter conditioning, he turned around to see several frenzied teammates running toward him. "They were going crazy," said Archer. "I was like, 'What [time] did I run?'"

He had run a 4.21.

Earlier this season, Sports Illustrated declared Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas the fastest man in college football. But Thomas may have competition from an unlikely locale: Kent State. A fourth-year junior, Archer currently leads the nation in all-purpose yardage (229.2 yards per game) and kick returns (47.7 yards per return), ranks fifth in scoring (12 points per game) and has been the catalyst behind the 5-1 Golden Flashes' best start since 1973.

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound native of Laurel, Fla., can beat you in four ways. He's a running back (104.2 rushing yards per game), receiver (16 catches for 225 yards), return man (three kick returns for touchdowns) and, in Saturday's 31-17 win at Army, a quarterback: He threw a 24-yard halfback pass to quarterback Spencer Keith for a touchdown.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," Archer said of his first career pass. "The whole defense just ran with me, I saw [Keith] get open and I threw it up there."

Kent State followers say Archer is the fastest player they've seen since Gerald Tinker, a gold medalist on the U.S. 4-x-100 relay team at the 1972 Olympics, suited up at receiver for the Flashes in 1973. That Don James-coached team, which included future NFL Hall of Famer Jack Lambert and current Missouri coach Gary Pinkel (teammate Nick Saban graduated a year earlier), went 9-2. Kent State has enjoyed just five winning seasons since then, the last of which came in 2001.

Under second-year coach Darrell Hazell, the Flashes have won their first three MAC games, including a 47-45 win over Ball State Sept. 29 in which Archer -- who missed last season with academic issues -- notched 330 all-purpose yards, the most of any FBS player this season. That's roughly half his entire total (666) as a sophomore in 2010.

So what's changed?

"I got faster," he said. Indeed: Prior to this offseason, Archer's fastest 40 time was a paltry 4.33.

Beano Cook: RIP

This week's video section is dedicated to the great Beano Cook, who passed away last week at the age of 81. We can only imagine him watching Saturday's goal-line stand at the end of Not-re Dame's dramatic victory and exclaiming: "Unbelievable!"

Looking ahead

Mini-previews for three of Week 8's big games:

LSU at Texas A&M, Saturday (Noon ET): LSU is pretty close to unbeatable in night games at home, but how will it fare in a contest at about 11 a.m. local time in College Station, Texas? Johnny Manziel isn't likely to put up 576 yards against Barkevious Mingo and Co., but Zach Mettenberger may need to throw for more than 148 yards for the Tigers.

South Carolina at Florida, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): After Saturday's loss at LSU, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier wondered whether quarterback Connor Shaw had taken a hit to the head because "some of his decision making was a little off." He'll need Shaw thinking clearly against another ferocious defensive line.

Kansas State at West Virginia, Saturday (7 p.m. ET): Ready to write off Geno Smith and the Mountaineers? Not wise. Sure, West Virginia's defense can't defend the pass, but Bill Snyder's teams don't generally throw 50 times a game. The Mountaineers rank 20th in the nation in rushing defense (3.3 yards per carry).

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