Missed offensive opportunities and the inability to stop Temple on third down spelled Kent State's doom on Saturday, losing 28-10 and erasing any real hopes at a MAC East title.
"They outplayed us today, really in every phase," a visiably frustrated Head Coach Doug Martin said after the game. "It was hard to match up both in size and strength. We didn't take advantage of opportunities we had early and forced some turnovers we didn't capitalize on--that's a set back, but we have three games left."
Temple's run-based offense had success both on the ground and through the air, amassing 465 total yards to Kent's 223. The Owls were successful on seven of nine third down conversions before the game entered garbage time and held possession for 38:54.
"Those [third down conversions] were back-breakers," Martin said. "[Temple] made plays, and that's what the game comes down to this time of year. [Quarterback Mike Gerardi] made some key throws and they had a nice game plan to offset our pass rush."
On the offensive end, Martin saw two first quarter drives stall at Temple's 15 yard line that brought in a total of just one field goal. Kicker Freddy Cortez both hit and missed from 32 yards out.
The lone offensive scoring drive was the result of wide receiver Sam Kirkland blocking Jeff Wathne's punt, putting Spencer Keith (17-30, 169 yards) and the Kent offense in immediate scoring range at the Temple 27 yard line. Temple forced a field goal after a questionable run-play was called on third and nine.
Kirkland struggled mightily the rest of the game, failing to haul in a would-be touchdown on Kent's next drive and later fumbling a kickoff in what may have been the turning point of the day.
Early in the second quarter with Kent still holding on to a 3-0 lead, Head Coach Al Golden orchestrated a 14 play, 80 yard drive capped by a nine yard scramble from quarterback Mike Gerardi (368 yards on 21-29 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions).
After Kirkland's fumble, Gerardi found Rod Streater in the back of the end zone, and in two minutes a three point lead was turned into an 11 point deficit which stood until halftime--barely.
Behind running back Bernard Pierce (99 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown) the Owls drove deep into Kent territory as the second half clock ran low before Cobrani Mixon intercepted a pass on the goal line after it was tipped by Monte Simmons at the line of scrimmage. It was almost as if Kent couldn't breathe after the Owls' first touchdown, but this allowed the entire team to take a deep breath.
Taking advantage of a swing in momentum, Norman Wolfe Jr. then picked off Gerardi on the second play of the second half with Kent still trailing 14-3. With an opportunity to slice Temple's lead to four, Running back Andre Flowers lost the ball as he crossed midfield.
A few plays later, Gerardi found receiver Michael Campbell wide open for a 63 yard touchdown pass, extending the lead to 21-3 and deflating the KSU sideline.
Kent's last real opportunity came later in the quarter when Monte Simmons sacked Gerardi and forced a fumble which was recovered by Howard Bowens, who had come in for an injured Cobrani Mixon, at the 47 yard line of Temple.
Spencer Keith was sacked twice and the offense couldn't get out of neutral.
Kent State's lone touchdown came after Howard Bowens blocked a punt and Sam Kirkland fell on it in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Spencer Keith left the game late in the fourth quarter with what Doug Martin is calling a thumb injury on his throwing hand.
Cobrani Mixon aggravated his existing shoulder injury and couldn't play the second half, Martin said.
Martin never allowed the running game to get going--starter Andre Flowers, in what was touted as a highly anticipated debut after Archer was benched for fumbling and Terry was limited due to a bum shoulder, only carried the ball six times for 26 yards. Jacquise Terry rushed for 21 yards on five carries and caught two passes for 49 yards.
One player that deserves to be highlighted is linebacker Howard Bowens. Bowens has been lighting players up for weeks on special teams and got a chance to play after Mixon came out at halftime. Bowens jumped into a pile like a torpedo to rip away a loose ball in the third quarter and finished with four tackles.