Record-Courier staff report
MOBILE, Ala. -- Road trip No. 5 in the past six weeks proved to be one too many for the Kent State football team.
The injury-ravaged Golden Flashes got a pair of long touchdowns from senior speedster Dri Archer, but little else as they fell to host South Alabama (3-3) 38-21 on Saturday afternoon at Ladd-Peebles Stadium -- where just 10 months ago they played their first bowl game in 40 years.
Kent State is now 2-6 overall after suffering their third straight setback, and will have to win out to earn bowl eligibility for the second straight season.
The Flashes were forced to battle the Jaguars without the services of starting quarterback Colin Reardon (ankle), star defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix (back) and standout punter/kicker Anthony Melchiori (hamstring). Those personnel losses, along with another tough opponent on the road, proved too much for Kent State to overcome.
KSU first-year head coach Paul Haynes was disappointed afterward.
"It wasn't a very good game (for us)," said Haynes. "It wasn't well executed, so I told them that I'll take all the blame. If we don't play well or like we should, that's on me. It won't happen again."
The Flashes fell behind 10-0, but Archer did his best to keep his team in the game. First he took a handoff over right tackle, broke loose to the sideline then cut back, turning the final USA defender around before finishing off a 74-yard run that brought Kent State to within 10-7 in the second quarter. The TD run was the first for Archer this season, and the 74-yard jaunt was the team's longest offensive play of the season.
Later after South Alabama extended its lead to 31-7 Archer snared a deep pass from senior quarterback David Fisher, ducked a defender on the sideline, then sprinted back to the middle and would not be caught before completing a 73-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
But once again the Jaguars struck right back, closing the game out with a 14-yard TD run by Kendall Houston.
Archer finished with 199 yards of offense and 227 all-purpose yards while increasing his career touchdown total to 35, tying him with Eugene Baker for Kent State's career lead. He produced his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season, finishing with 114 yards on 10 carries.
"Any time he has a chance to touch the ball, he can score," said Haynes. "It's not a one-man show though. We need a lot of other people to show up and play, and we've got to put (the players) in the proper position and make them successful."
The Flashes were able to move the ball effectively, finishing with 428 total yards, but failed to put points on the board after several promising drives. Their first drive of the game went deep into USA territory, but ended with a missed field goal after a pair of illegal motion calls pushed them back. The The second drive was also reached the Jaguars' end, but was abruptly halted after 244-pound junior running back Trayion Durham was stuffed on back-to-back runs with KSU needing just two yards for a first down.
Freshman kicker Brad Miller, subbing for Melchiori, missed a pair of field goals.
Fisher played well in his first collegiate start, giving Kent State a second 100-yard rusher with 106 yards on 12 carries. He also completed 14-of-26 passes for 177 yards, and threw a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Casey Pierce with just seconds left in the game. Fisher did not throw an interception, as neither team committed a turnover.
"(Fisher) played tough and got a couple of good long runs for us to get us out of trouble a lot of times," said Haynes. "Again, it is a team effort. All the mistakes we're making we can't make, and I put that all on my shoulders."
Defensively, the Flashes had a tough time stopping South Alabama -- which rolled up 483 yards of offense, including 257 yards on the ground in 53 attempts. Senior quarterback Ross Metheny completed 16-of-23 passes for 224 yards and tossed a 16-yard TD pass to Danny Woodson late in the second quarter that gave the Jaguars a 17-7 halftime lead. He also scored on a 16-yard run in the third quarter to put USA up 31-7.
Junior Jay Jones added 99 yards rushing on 13 attempts, and scored South Alabama's first touchdown on a 5-yard run.
"I give (South Alabama) credit. They did a good job blocking us," said Haynes. "We couldn't get off blocks. They have a tough scheme. They sit there and run the quarterback and spread you out. We knew that it would be difficult, and that we had to take a bend but don't break approach. South Alabama got a couple of big plays on us, but it still comes down to fundamentals and technique. We did not have that today."
Kent State's defense did manage to register four sacks, including two by former Kent Roosevelt High School star Marcus Wright -- the first two of his carer. The junior lineman received significant playing time with Nix sidelined, and wound up with four total tackles.
"Marcus is going to be a good player for us," said Haynes. "He's a walk-on, which is a good thing when you see a hometown kid from Kent succeed at Kent. He will only get better for us."
The Flashes (2-6, 1-3 MAC) will host Buffalo (5-2, 3-0) on Saturday as they try to keep their postseason hopes alive.
"We've got to show up and go to work, because Buffalo doesn't care how we feel," said Haynes. "That's the one thing, it's on us. We've got to show up and play. Like I said, when I sit there and see that type of effort, I take the blame for that. We have to give better effort. We've got to execute better and we've got to do the little things right. This is the time of the year where fundamentals and technique win you games. We're not very fundamentally sound."