LEXINGTON: Dri Archer tried to spark the Kent State football team to victory the way he did in Week One.
But after giving the Golden Flashes a first-quarter lead with a career-high 47-yard rushing touchdown, the junior running back suffered a rough second half that included a fumble and slip in the end zone that resulted in a safety.
Despite scoring on the opening drive of the second half after spotting the Wildcats 17 unanswered points, Kentucky’s offense went on to bury the Flashes with 30 second-half points en route to a 47-14 blowout victory.
Trailing 17-7 at halftime, Kent State (1-1) took the opening drive of the second half 75 yards for its second score. The four-minute, 26-second drive was capped by sophomore running back Trayion Durham rumbling 26 yards for a score that cut Kentucky’s lead to 17-14 with 10:34 to go in the third quarter.
But that was as close as the Flashes could get, as Kentucky (1-1) reeled off 16 points in the third quarter and piled on 14 more in the fourth.
Just as quick as KSU had pulled to within three points, Kentucky cranked up its passing game and began to reel off one score after another. Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith was 30-of-39 for 354 yards and four touchdowns as the Wildcats racked up nearly 500 yards of total offense.
The Wildcats’ second-half onslaught began with Smith passing for 70 of the 80 yards in his first drive in pivotal half, a score capped by an 18-yard touchdown strike to receiver Gene McKaskill for a 24-14 lead.
Looking to close the gap again, the Flashes’ lone turnover of the game couldn’t have come at a worse time. Kentucky cornerback Martavius Neloms dislodged the ball from Archer’s grip on a jarring hit that forced a fumble.
The Wildcats recovered and were on the verge of another score before the Flashes’ defense held its ground on fourth-and-goal. But in taking over so dangerously close to the end zone, Archer appeared to trip over quarterback Spencer Keith’s feet and the resulting Kentucky’s safety extended its lead to 26-14.
Practically taking all doubt out of the eventual outcome of the game, Kentucky running back Jonathan George provided another fast blow on a 38-yard rushing touchdown that began to put distance between the teams.
Smelling defeat, the Wildcats struck easily and often in rebounding from their season-opening defeat at the hands of in-state rival Louisville.
In the first half, things looked bright for Archer right away, as he took a handoff from Keith (who set up Archer’s big play with a key 16-yard gain), and darted 47 yards down field for the game’s first score. The touchdown with 1:54 to go in the first quarter gave Archer four touchdowns in just five quarters this season.
But the Wildcats snatched the momentum right back by rebounding to score 17 unanswered points. That was helped by missed field goals of 50 and 31 yards by Kent State kicker Freddy Cortez.
If there’s a silver lining for the Flashes in defeat, they have plenty of time to regroup before their next game.
Kent State has a bye next week before traveling to Buffalo on Sept. 19 to open Mid-American Conference play.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.