When Kent State lost at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in January, it marked the end of their best season in program history.
Ten months later, the Golden Flashes returned to the same site. But Saturday’s 38-21 loss to host South Alabama was no different, except that it likely cost KSU the ability to be bowl eligible in consecutive seasons.
In suffering their third consecutive loss and dropping to 2-6 overall with four games remaining in the season, the struggling Flashes would have to win out the rest of the way to even be considered for one of the Mid-American Conference’s growing bowl tie-ins.
“I told [the players] I’ll take the blame for it,” Flashes first-year head coach Paul Haynes said. “That’s on me. If we don’t play like we should, I’ll take the blame. And it won’t happen again.”
Missing several key starting players due to injuries — including redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon — the Flashes’ offense got off to a slow start. They spotted the Jaguars a 10-0 advantage before the first of Dri Archer’s two lengthy touchdowns – a 74-yard rushing score in the second quarter that marked the Flashes’ longest offensive play of the season — to put them on the board.
With the Jaguars (3-3) in the midst of blowing out the Flashes in the second half while quickly tacking on another touchdown following a 17-7 halftime lead, Archer struck again. Reserve quarterback David Fisher connected with Archer on a 73-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter. That marked KSU’s longest pass play of the season.
Archer, who recorded his first 100-yard rushing effort this year after being limited most of the season by an ankle injury suffered in the season opener, rushed for 114 yards on 10 carries en route to 199 yards of total offense and 227 all-purpose yards. With the two scores, Archer is now tied with Eugene Baker as the school’s career touchdown leader with 35.
Fisher also reached the 100-yard mark on the ground in his first Division I start, running for a career-high 106 yards on 12 carries. In addition, the fifth-year senior went 14-of-26 for 181 yards though the air, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Casey Pierce with six seconds left in the game.
But too many of Kent State’s offensive drives ended without points, including two on missed field goals by reserve Brad Miller, who filled in for starting kicker/punter Anthony Melchiori.
Despite also playing without senior defensive lineman standout Roosevelt Nix, the Kent State defense recorded a season-high four sacks of Jaguars quarterback Ross Metheny and a season-best eight tackles for loss. Two of the sacks were by former Roosevelt High standout Marcus Wright, who earned added playing time with Nix sitting out with various ailments, including a nagging back injury.