The expected low scoring defensive battle that many college football followers expected to see unfold Saturday between host Kent State and Bowling Green morphed into a disappointing second-half blowout loss for the Golden Flashes.
Playing again without the aid of their top play maker in senior speedster Dri Archer and still looking for their once-opportunistic defense to provide a spark with its first take away of the season, the Flashes (1-1, 0-1 in the Mid-American Conference) stumbled to the finish line as the Falcons (2-0, 1-0) distanced themselves with 24 unanswered points to close out the early league match up with a 41-22 victory.
The most glaring defensive miscue for the Flashes came late in the third quarter and proved to be the ultimate back breaker. Kent State’s reserve corner back Malcolm Pannell missed a wide-open tackle of Ryan Burbrink on 3rd-and-15, allowing the Falcons receiver to sprint 92 yards for the score.
What made the play so disheasrteneing was the fact that it came just minutes after the Flashes defense sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson for a five-yard loss on first down and then forced an incomplete pass on second down.
But with the Falcons facing third-and-long from their own 8-yard line, Pannell got beat on a deep slant, allowing the deficit to widen to unsurmountable double digits at 34-22.
Before the second-half collapse, Kent State managed to keep pace for nearly two quarters without Archer (who did not dress for the game due a left ankle sprain suffered on the Flashes first drive of the season in last week’s opener), by answering each of the Falcons early scores.
With just under five minutes until halftime, the Flashes took a 22-17 lead via fullback Trayion Durham’s 2-yard touchdown plunge. But that’s where the day’s positives ended for KSU’s fans.
Durham went on to gain just 29 yards on 11 carries and red shirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon’s fast start to his second collegiate game began to fizzle as the Falcons took over.
Following Durham’s second quarter score, Bowling Green outgained Kent State 341 yards to 59, beginning with a forgettable third quarter in which Kent State’s offense sputtered during three drives that resulted in one first down and three punts. Overall, the Falcons racked up 576 total yards of offense compared to the Flashes 302, who managed a mere 65 yards in the nightmare second half.
After completing six of his first eight passes in the first quarter, Reardon finished the game 15-of-28 for 164 yards and two touchdowns. His long pass play of 42 yards resulted in a touchdown to receiver Chris Humphrey, that first drive capped by a Humphrey 2-point conversion run.
While it was obvious that the Falcons veteran defense made key adjustments at halftime in order to turn the game into a contest of two very different halves, Reardon wasn’t willing to give the opposition much credit.
Kent State’s offense isn’t the only unit that has struggled. During last year’s record-setting season, the defense often came to the aid when the offense sputtered, totaling 38 turnovers. Yet, through two games this season, the once-opportunistic unit has yet to make its first momentum-sparking turnover.
Haynes and team captain Roosevelt Nix agreed the problem simply comes down to fundamentals.
Nix, a senior defensive end, made his presence felt on the warm and sunny afternoon with two sacks of Johnson (19-of-25 for 357 yards and two touchdowns) that made him KSU’s all-time leader in tackles for loss with 56.