By Allen Moff | Staff writer
Kent State and Bowling Green treated the 22,758 fans that crammed into Dix Stadium on a gorgeous September afternoon in Kent to a thrilling exhibition of high-octane offense in the first half of Saturday's early season Mid-American Conference gridiron showdown, combining for an incredible 555 yards and 46 points.
In the second half, the Falcons barely slowed down.
The Golden Flashes lost their throttle.
Bowling Green blanked Kent State 17-0 in the final two quarters to secure a convincing 41-22 victory and gain a measure of revenge for last year's KSU victory at BG that gave the Flashes the MAC East Division title. The Falcons also stopped Kent State's 11-game regular season winning streak and its nine-game run of victories at home.
Bowling Green (2-0, 1-0 MAC) outgained Kent State (1-1, 0-1) 268-65 in the final two quarters while pulling away.
That margin swells to 337-59 following junior running back Trayion Durham's 2-yard touchdown with 4:40 to go in the second quarter that gave the Flashes their final lead at 22-17, and finished at 576-302 for the game.
"They ran the same blitzes (in the second half) as in the first half, so we've gotta do a better job of coming out of the gate at halftime. And it comes back to execution," said KSU first-year coach Paul Haynes. "It was a drop here and there, a missed block here and there. When we sit down and watch this film we're gonna see there were plays there (in the second half) and we just didn't execute, and in the first half we were executing them perfectly. Execution. It's no secret."
Bowling Green answered Durham's TD with a 7-yard pass from quarterback Matt Johnson to wideout Jared Cohen to take a 24-22 halftime lead, then took command when Johnson and wide receiver Ryan Burbrink hooked up for a 92-yard score on a third-and-15 play to push the lead to 34-22 midway through the third period.
Burbrink caught the ball on a deep slant at around midfield then shook loose from KSU corner Malcolm Pannell, who had no help behind him.
"We talked about what we couldn't do on the defensive side is give up big plays and have mental mistakes. We had way too many," said Haynes. "A three-man rush, you're trying to play coverage, we're in a three-deep scheme and they run four (vertical routes) and kind of split the zone and just got us. It can be covered, we just didn't play it right. That was a huge play."
The Flashes were able to answer nearly every play the Falcons made in the first half, but not in the final 30 minutes. The deficit had grown to 41-22 following a 1-yard run by William Houston before Kent State finally reached BG territory in the second half with a drive that ended on a fumble at the BG 23.
No one at Dix Stadium saw this offensive collapse coming after redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon led the Flashes to three touchdowns in four first-half possessions.
After Bowling Green scored on the game's opening drive to take a 7-0 lead, Reardon heaved a 42-yard touchdown bomb to junior wide receiver Chris Humphrey (4 catches, 84 yards), who then ran in the 2-point conversion to give KSU an 8-7 edge.
Tyler Tate's 30-yard field goal gave the Falcons a two-point lead, but Reardon countered with a 12-yard scoring toss to junior tight end Casey Pierce that put Kent State back up 15-10. The see-saw battle continued when Andre Givens scored on a 3-yard run for a 22-17 BG lead, then Reardon retaliated with a 42-yard run to the BG 21 that set up the 2-yard tally by Durham - who was held to 24 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
Reardon completed 10-of-14 tosses for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, and added 57 rushing yards on four carries. But those totals stayed flat in the final 30 minutes, as Reardon wound up with 164 yards passing (15-of-28) and 58 yards rushing (12 carries).
The second half started with a short toss to wideout Tyshon Goode, but was followed by six straight incompletions. Reardon went 2-of-9 for 13 yards in the third quarter, when the Flashes were outgained 135-19. And not much changed in the final quarter.
"In the second half we still had everything that we had (open) in the first half, we just weren't executing. I take full blame for that," said Reardon. "People got a little lazy, but that's my fault. As the quarterback you've gotta keep everybody's head (in the game). We came out a little lackadaisical, and from there it just kind of went downward. Their defense did nothing different. We just weren't executing."
Archer's big-play ability was certainly missed in the second half, but Haynes wasn't about to dwell on what might have been had his star speedster been able to play.
"I want to talk about the guys that played, not the ones that didn't play," Haynes said.
Defensively, the Flashes simply didn't play well. They failed to snare a turnover for the third consecutive game dating back to last season after forcing 38 in the first 13 games last year, and did little to slow Johnson (19-of-25, 357 yards, 2 TDs) -- who made his first collegiate start -- or sophomore running back Travis Greene (24 carries, 145 yards, 1 TD).
"It was fundamental football," said KSU senior tackle Roosevelt Nix, who had four tackles for a loss to become the school's career leader with 56. "We have to regroup and make the plays."
Now the Flashes must turn their attention to a 1-2-3 road punch that opens with a visit to No. 9 LSU next week, then proceeds to Happy Valley for a visit with Big Ten power Penn State before concluding with a MAC road game against an improved Western Michigan squad that played Michigan State very tough in its season opener.
"We're gonna go fight. It's what you do," said Haynes. "This is Week 2, this ain't the end of the season. The world ain't over. We got beat, that's it. We're gonna come back strong as ever, get our road focus on and that's it."
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