Kent State showed plenty of promise in non-conference play last fall, competing with Penn State for nearly a half and remaining within striking distance of Ole Miss for three quarters. But with a clean slate for a new season, the Golden Flashes’ trip to Arizona State was forgettable at best.
The Sun Devils’ defense stifled Kent State, seamlessly coasting to a 30-7 victory in Tempe. It was a slow start for both teams, as only 10 combined points were scored in the first half. The first play from scrimmage involved Arizona State racing past Kent State’s offensive line to sack Woody Barrett and force a fumble. Although recovered by the Golden Flashes, they punted after a quick three-and-out, which set up Arizona State for a quick field goal.
Another fumble struck the Flashes’ offense in their own territory shortly after. Running back Jo-El Shaw fumbled after picking up a first down on a 15-yard carry, but Cam Phillips dove on the pigskin to provide the Sun Devils a short field. Phillips’ team capitalized on the ensuing possession, a drive which resulted in true freshman quarterback connecting with star running back Eno Benjamin on an 8-yard screen for a touchdown.
Down 10-0 at half after forcing three punts and a fumble before halftime, Kent State’s defense kept the team within comfortable range. That quickly changed in the second half.
Benjamin accounted for 38 yards of scrimmage on the Sun Devils’ first possession of the third quarter, steadily driving them to another score. Daniels put on the finishing duties with a QB keeper on a goal line read option to put Arizona State up three possessions.
At the start of the second quarter, Kent State inserted backup quarterback Dustin Crum under center. The run-first quarterback didn’t provide the spark head coach Sean Lewis was looking for, finishing 3-of-8 with -3 passing yards. In his first stint of the second half, Crum was strip-sacked, causing another fatal Kent State turnover. Arizona State responded with a field goal and finished the night with 10 points off turnovers.
Ahead 20-0, Arizona State delivered the final blow from 77 yards out. Kent State sent a house blitz into the Sun Devils’ backfield, but Daniels connected with wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk on a bubble screen. After receiving some quality blocks, Aiyuk defeated two Kent State defenders in a footrace to the end zone.
Daniels threw for 284 yards in his collegiate debut and was responsible for three total touchdowns. Benjamin, the preseason AP All-American running back, hit slightly above the century mark on 22 carries.
The shutout would not be maintained, as Barrett — inserted back in for Crum after the fumble — guided Kent State down the field with a perfect 6-for-6, 64 yard passing drive. Outside of this possession, Barrett finished a gruesome night 3-of-10 with 19 passing yards. Arizona State applied substantial pressure throughout the night, recording three sacks and five forced fumbles against the visiting Flashes.
Kent State’s defense held its own for a while with five sacks and seven tackles for loss, but the turnovers and constant three-and-outs eventually gassed out the defense to lift Arizona State to an easy victory.
Averaging just 3.3 yards per pass and fumbling three times, Golden Flashes’ offense appears to require plenty of maintenance in the coming days of practice. Kent State returns home Week 2 with an extended period of rest for a Saturday game against FCS opponent Kennesaw State.