For the first time since early in the season opener against Liberty, Dri Archer took the field for Kent State last night against LSU. Unfortunately for the Golden Flashes, he played only sparingly and was not effective when he did play. It appears that he's getting closer to full-strength, but he's not there yet. And in the meantime, Kent State's offense continues to struggle mightily
After accumulating just 59 yards over the final 34 minutes of last week's game at home against Bowling Green, KSU managed only 248 yards on 61 plays against the Tigers. It is true that many teams -- even the best in the Southeastern Conference -- can struggle on offense in Baton Rouge, this output is concerning for a unit that moved the ball almost at will last year and returned one of the most dynamic players in all of college football for this season.
Even more disturbing for Kent State was their lack of a running game; on 32 carries, KSU runners earned only 58 yards. That's fewer than two yards per run. This inability to run the ball inevitably places pressure on a defense that has talented players but is not built to win the game for the Flashes. Against LSU, Kent State's defense was gashed repeatedly on the ground and eventually gave up 307 yards rushing. The result? The Flashes were down 21-0 before they could even blink.
LSU received the opening kickoff, and Kent State actually provided great coverage as they downed Odell Beckham at the Tigers' own 14. Jeremy Hill carried on the first two plays for short gains. Then, after two Zach Mettenberger completions, Hill took the ball at the Tiger 42 and rumbled 58 yards for the game's first touchdown after just 2:41 had elapsed from the clock.
Kent State went backwards for three yards on their opening possession and gave LSU great field position at their own 43 after a 38-yad punt. Mettenberger passed 36 yards to Travin Dural to get the Tigers into scoring position, and four plays later, he connected with Jarvis Landry on 3rd-and-20 for a 21 yard touchdown pass. The Tigers led 14-0 after just six minutes.
The Flashes earned their initial first down of the game on a Colin Reardon 14-yard run on their second drive. However, from their own 30, Kent State went backwards. Way backwards. An illegal block on first down made it 1st-and-25, and then, on 3rd-and-21, Reardon was sacked at the four yard line for a 15-yard loss. Anthony Melchiori's 34-yard punt was taken in by Beckham, who was tackled one yard later at the Kent State 37 -- three yards shy of where KSU had needed to get to convert their 4th-and-36.
LSU wasted no time getting into the end zone for a third time, and they got help from Kent State along the way. After two short Hill runs, Mettenberger passed incomplete to Beckham on 3rd-and-5; however, KSU was called for pass interference and gave LSU a first down at the 17. Two plays later, Hill took the ball and ran for a 12-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 21-0 edge.
The Golden Flashes began driving at the end of the first quarter, but when the clock expired, LSU had outgained Kent State 175-34.
Reardon led the Flashes to complete what was easily their best drive of the game at the beginning of the second frame. After passing for 16 yards to Chris Humphrey to get a 1st-and-goal, Reardon ran a bootleg to the right and scored KSU's only touchdown of the game from two yards out. However, the Tigers immediately answered the score with a field goal of their own. In a terrible coverage play, Mettenberger passed short to Connor Neighbors, who ran for a 52-yard completion to the KSU 23 on the first play of the drive. LSU drove to the Kent State 2, but the Flashes held there. Colby Delahoussaye kicked a chip-shot from 25 yards to make the score 24-7.
Kent State then went three-and-out, but Melchiori pinned the Tigers deep in their own end of the field. However, LSU's big plays continued. Mettenberger completed a 22-yard pass to Beckham to get the Tigers out of the shadow of their own goal line and then for 15 more to Landry. Hill got the ball into KSU territory with an 18-yard run before Mettenberger connected with Beckham again, this time for 20 yards. Mettenberger-to-Landry cemented the drive with a sharp 31-yard touchdown completion. LSU led 31-7 with just four minutes left in the half.
Melchiori had to punt for Kent State again on the next drive, but LSU gifted three points to the Golden Flashes just before the end of the half. Dural muffed the punt for LSU, and Nick Holley recovered for Kent at the LSU 20. The Flashes gained nothing from there, but Melchiori had no problem making a 37-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the half to cut LSU's lead to 31-10. Despite the ten points in the quarter, KSU gained only 71 yards and was outgained 184-71.
In the third quarter, Kent State possessed the ball for much of the 15 minutes but only ended up getting three points out of the deal. Their first drive took them into LSU territory and took 5:30 off the clock, but a personal foul penalty ultimately forced the Flashes to punt on 4th-and-28 from the LSU 39. Two minutes later, the Flashes got the ball back. They again drove downfield, this time to the LSU 18. However, on 4th-and-2, KSU coach Paul Haynes chose to attempt a field goal rather than try to convert a first down. Melchiori ended the 10-play, 4:23 drive with a 36-yard field goal, but LSU still led, 31-13.
The Tigers kept the ball for the final 3:16 of the third quarter and was on the doorstep of another touchdown as the frame ended. Terrence Magee started the drive with four runs for 46 yards, including a 24-yard carry. Alfred Blue then carried twice for nine yards before Mettenberger completed a 28-yard pass to Travis Dickson at the Kent State 2. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Tigers put the game away for good when LSU followed a false start penalty with a five-yard touchdown pass from Mettenberger to Beckham.
After yet another Kent State three-and-out, LSU earned their final points on a five-play, 60-yard drive. All five plays were runs. Blue carried the ball on the first three plays for 23 yards. Magee then popped a 25-yard run before finishing the drive with a 12-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 45-13 lead. Kent State put together a 13-play drive together on their final possession, but Melchiori missed a 48-yard field goal wide-left to end it.
Reardon was not bad; in fact, he was fairly effective at times and did not turn the ball over at all. But without Archer? There's only so much he can do against a defense like LSU's. Still, he completed 20 of 29 pass attempts for 190 yards. He was sacked twice and had no touchdown throws, but as noted, he also did not produce any turnovers.
His 20 completions went to ten different receivers. Ernest Calhoun led that group with four catches for 24 yards, while Josh Boyle had 53 yards on three catches. None of the other receivers had more than 21 yards.
On the ground, Trayion Durham was bottled up for the entire game. He managed just 36 yards on 18 carries, and his longest run went for six yards. Reardon had a net gain of ten yards on his eight carries, and that included a 14-yard run and his two-yard touchdown run. Anthony Meray also had 17 yards rushing for KSU.
As for Dri Archer, he had only one touch during the entire game -- a seven-yard reception late in the first quarter. He was never afforded a rushing attempt, and Reardon only targeted him twice in the air. The other attempt to Archer was on the third play from scrimmage on KSU's opening drive.
Yes, LSU was able to do anything and everything they wanted on offense. Hill rushed 11 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Magee had 108 yards on just nine carries and also had a touchdown. Blue contributed 56 yards on just ten carries late in the game.
All the wide-open runs allowed Mettenberger to do what he wanted in the passing game. He attempted just 18 passes but completed 13 of those for 264 yards. That's 20 yards per completion. He wasn't sacked and had three touchdowns to no interceptions. Beckham had five catches, 76 yards and a touchdown, while Landry had two touchdowns among his four catches for 66 yards. Neighbors, Dural and Dickson each had just one catch, but they went for 52, 36 and 28 yards, respectively.
Ego Ferguson led LSU's defense with eight tackles and tormented Kent State's offensive front all night.
This is what it is. Year-in and year-out, LSU has one of the top defenses in the country, so Kent State and MAC fans shouldn't read too much into it. However, with just 300 yards of offense over their last six quarters, it is becoming increasingly clear that Kent State's offense needs Dri Archer to succeed. Without him, they are nowhere close to being what they could be, and their season will quickly become the victim.
Now at 1-2, KSU has to travel to play Penn State next week before beginning MAC play at Western Michigan on Sept. 28th. After that? They play Northern Illinois and Ball State. If the Golden Flashes want to salvage their season, Archer needs to get healthy. If he can't, they could find themselves 2-5 when they head back to Mobile, Ala. to face South Alabama on October 19th.