Kent State beating Liberty 17-10 was never the story in this one.
On the first drive of the game, Dri Archer appeared to have had his ankle smashed underneath a pile, and after coming back for a play in the second series, had to sit out the rest of the game. Head coach Paul Haynes said in his press conference that he thinks he will be OK, but even those reassuring words will not be enough to ease the tension of the Kent State faithful tonight.
Archer was unable to spark the offense like he did so many times last season. From the sidelines he had to watch Trayion Durham grind out drive after drive. Even the first drive, where the Flashes really did look golden, it took a Durham 10 yard run on third and eight to keep it alive. He converted two third and shorts as well.
Kent picked up 75 yards on that possession, it was over nine minutes long. But after that, the Golden Flashes accumulated only 81 yards the rest of the half. The offense was staggered, and it was the defense that was able to keep the team in the game.
"The D line had a crazy game. All night they were rushing the passer." Kent State defensive back Darius Polk said.
He is underselling his squad's own role, though - Liberty had less than twenty yards in the first half. It was a team effort, though the defensive line was dominant.
Kent State's first year starting quarterback Colin Reardon looked sharp and in control on the first drive, but he also fumbled the ball in his own territory later. That allowed Liberty to score their first three points.
He said that he felt comfortable on the first drive.
"I was anxious, I was actually surprised that I wasn't nervous. I was just anxious to get the snap. I knew since yesterday that we were going to pass the ball. Once I got that ball [to] Tyshon (Goode) [on] the first play of the game things were feeling good. The offensive line was blowing them off the ball. Everything was in our game plan and it worked perfect. ..It felt great," Reardon said.
Polk beat deep
Polk had his troubles as well. He gave up a 58-yard deep ball to Liberty receiver Darrin Peterson on the first play of the second half. He said that he was frustrated and knew that because of it the Flames were going to attack him the rest of the game.
"I was sick to my stomach when I allowed the deep ball over my head," Polk said.
He was able to defend two passes that caused a turnover on downs and all but clinched the Kent State victory.
"I knew that they were coming to me because I gave up that deep ball. So I had to keep my composure. I had to let that play go, and I needed to make a key play when my team needed me in the clutch," Polk said.
The BIG play
The play of the game happened in the fourth. The Golden Flahes had everything working for them and were able to put the first nail in the coffin when Reardon connected with Chris Humphrey for 42 yards and the score. It put his team up by seven with the extra point and decided the game.
Humphrey finished with 88 yards receiving.
"We realized later in the game that the corner...was getting tired. We just threw a simple throw and then I've been drilled into my head, by all the coaches that I have had, that you always make the first guy miss. Once you make the first guy miss it gets easier...so that's what I did and [Reardon] made a great read and threw a perfect ball, I couldn't ask for a better ball. Once I made the first guy miss I just got up field. And I knew that we needed it bad," Humphrey said.
Reaction: At least without Dri Archer, this team is not BCS bound.
Kent State was sloppy, taking nine penalties for a total loss of 79 yards. Its offense was awful for most of the game. Its shining light was the defensive line that was simply great. Without them Liberty may have gotten its offense going sooner, and there would have been a much different outcome.
Bowling Green, who destroyed Tulsa, is going to come into DIx Stadium and give the Flashes their first real test. I already predicted that if they lose their season is doomed. It seems realistic now.
Maybe Archer can add the "oomph" that is needed, but he is only one guy. The other guys are going to have to step up.