The Kent State football team saved its best performance of the season for last, trouncing host Ohio 44-13 on Tuesday at Peden Stadium in the Golden Flashes' season finale.
The Flashes all-around best game of the year included the most points scored in a game, the largest margin of victory and season highs of 29 first downs and 537 yards of total offense.
Although it wasn’t enough to save the 2013 season from ultimately being labeled as disappointing in finishing with a 4-8 record, 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference, the Flashes rebounded to notch their first back-to-back wins of the season – doing so in exciting fashion.
“The season itself didn't start out the way we wanted it to, but we finished it the way it should have,” junior nose tackle Nate Terhune said. “That was huge for the seniors, and I was just so happy for them.”
After holding a slight 17-13 lead at halftime, Kent State scored on its first possession of the second half and never looked back while racking up 34 unanswered points, including 27 in a second half that featured the team's play of the year.
A week ago, Kent State football coach Paul Haynes called his team’s mishandled fake punt attempt against winless Miami “the worst fake punt in the history of college football”.
Tuesday, the Flashes redeemed the trick play when Terhune, a nose tackle who’d suffered a broken leg eight weeks ago, took a fake and rumbled 61 yards - hurdling a Bobcats defender along the way – en route to a 61-yard touchdown.
“I had visualized that leap since last year when we played Bowling Green, and I tried to hurdle that guy and didn't get my leg high enough,” Terhune said of his first fake-punt carry last season. “That's how I had imagined the play to go all along, but I couldn’t have done it without the guys up front getting good blocks. I just had to beat one guy.”
The first half of the game – carried by ESPN2 - had its own potential Top 10 Play when receiver Chris Humphrey went up high over the middle and came down with a stunning one-handed reception in the second quarter. It was his 20th consecutive game with at least one catch.
In between, versatile speedster Dri Archer scored three times to give him 11 touchdowns on the injury-shortened season to finish his Kent State career just one score shy of tying former Flashes quarterback Josh Cribbs’ school-record of 41.
Before all that exciting action came a battle of the kickers as Ohio’s Josiah Yazdani booted a 20-yard field goal to put the Bobcats (6-5, 3-4) on the board with 12:06 left in the first quarter.
Kent State’s Anthony Melchiori soon evened things up with a career-best 47-yarder, a feat in its own right considering he wasn't expected to play again this year after injuring his hamstring Oct. 12. He finished with a career-high three made field goals.
But Yazdani seemed to tell Melchiori “anything you can do, I can do better” by nailing a 49-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the field-goal filled first quarter to give the Bobcats a 6-3 advanatge.
Archer’s first score came on a 24-yard scamper with 13:34 to go in the second quarter, but Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton gave the host their final lead with a 1-yard touchdown pass with 10:04 to go in the half.
Despite a rare missed field goal by Melchiori late in the second quarter, Kent State still managed to take a 17-13 lead into the locker room at halftime when receiver Casey Pierce won a jump ball between three defenders in the end zone, hauling in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Colin Reardon with 31 seconds left in the half.
“To send our seniors out the right way on a two-game winning streak is good for our program going into the offseason,” Haynes said. “To come out with two good wins just catapults us to have a good offseason…It's very important, because we can break them down a little bit more in the offseason and then we will build them back up. For them to have the confidence to play so well is huge going into the offseason.”
Ohio, which has lost its last three games, wraps up its regular season Nov. 29 against visiting UMass.
“We’re a football team that’s spiraling down, and we’re struggling trying to bring ourselves out of it,” Bobcats head coach Frank Solich said.