The players on both teams battled hard for 60 minutes, with championship-style physicality. In the end, the Kent State Golden Flashes (2-3, 1-0 MAC East) found a way to get the win over a battle-ready and capable Ohio Bobcat squad (2-3, 0-1 MAC East) which led for most of the contest.
In this kind of game close, hard-fought game, there is a lot of things to say about both squads. Here are some takeaways.
Another great MAC game comes down to the wire
This game is the perfect example of how muc parity there is in the MAC on a week-to-week basis.
That the game went into overtime is a compliment to both teams having a never-say-doe attitude, matching one another’s intensity blow-by-blow. There were a few moments where Ohio might have won the game in the fourth quarter but for KSU coming up with a play that was just good enough to stop the ‘Cats and force the extra period.
For example, with the score tied with 45 seconds remaining, Ohio had a shot to get deep into Kent State territory for a potentially game-winning score. QB Kurtis Rourke launched a pass down field to tight end Will Kacmarek, who had gotten a step behind the defense. Rourke was unable to step into the throw due to pressure by KSU’s DT Zayin West and the throw came up perhaps one yard short of giving Kacmarek the best chance to make the play.
Ohio ended up punting and the game went to OT, where Ohio eventually faltered, coming up four yards short of tying the score.
Teams... Kent run on these Flashes (or else they get ran over)
Playing against the most similarly-talented squad all season in Ohio, KSU showed they are going to be a handful to stop in the running game in MAC play for most teams. That KSU ran for 338 yards and three scores against a determined Ohio front seven is an indication that all parts of the Golden Flashes ground game from players to scheme are working well.
After their showing against Ohio, it’s little surprise that Kent State’s 1,095 yards rushing is tops in the MAC so far.
From the first drive of the game, KSU’s O-line created some pretty impressive running lanes with running back Marquez Cooper taking advantage. Once through the hole, Cooper gained a ton of yardage on his own, showing durability and a variety of moves from spins to power that make him tough to tackle.
KSU’s scheme also gives quarterback Colin Schlee the opportunity to pull it from Cooper and wreak havoc on his own runs. If not pulling it from Cooper, Schlee also has some designed runs like draws which were very effective at times. Schlee finished 77 yards last week to bring his season rushing total to 256, good for third in the MAC for QBs.
The Golden Flashes played very effective run defense for the most part. KSU held Ohio to 128 yards on 30 carries (including losses from two sacks) allowing one explosive play, a 50-yard TD run by Sieh Bangura.
Except the one long run, KSU held Ohio to 2.4 per carry. KSU has also held three other 2022 opponents to under four yards per game this season, with 2.9, 3.7, and 3.9 yards per carry in those other contests.
One Flashes defensive player who stands out amongst a unit which has proven effective agaisnt stopping the run has been defensive tackle CJ West, who may be on track for a first-team, all-conference nomination. West won’t stuff the stat sheet, but is dominant at times in his role. For example, on Ohio’s opening drive, lining up at nose, West moved the offensive linemen so far into the backfield so fast as to almost get a tackle-for-loss on a play designed to go outside.
On the whole, KSU’s defense as a unit rose to the occasion on multiple third-and-short situations in the fourth quarter to stymie Ohio drives and give the Flashes’ offense some extra drives to get back into the game.
Players to watch
Offensive players on both sides of the ball are heating up as we head into MAC play, with some career-best productivity last week.
Two Golden Flashes set new career bests. We talked about WR Dante Cephas’ 246-ya receiving night in the game recap, and will continue to do so here, as it was a career-best performance. Cephas made multiple big plays with in the fourth quarter to help the Flashes complete the comeback with impressive yards after catch and a toe-drag TD grab where Cephas held on the ball in spite of pass interference.
RB Marquez Cooper finished with career single-game highs in rushing attempts and yards with 40 attempts for 240 yards.
Ohio’s WR Sam Wiglusz has been setting career bests lately, with record 10 catches in Week 4 and a new record of 115 yards receiving versus KSU. He’s only heating up as the Bobcats hit the brunt of their league schedule, which is a great sign for a unit which suffered in that department in 2021.
Bobcats offense fighting through adversity
If Ohio can get healthier on offense, they should finish the season near the top of the league in scoring based on a balanced offense with QB Rourke leading the charge.
That Ohio’s offense was able to gain 425 yards and 24 points in regulation with so many injuries coming into the game and against a very good KSU defense was a testament to their depth. At opening kickoff, Ohio was missing at least eight notable players, three contributors at running back, two of the three rotating tight ends, a starting wideout, and both starting tackles.
Ohio’s offensive line featured two backups and a player playing out of position but still only allowed two sacks while getting enough offense to keep it close. RG Hagen Meservy showed his versatility by moving from right guard to cover the right tackle spot and is playing his way towards an all-conference nod.
Ohio’s emerging tight end group
With the graduation of program staples Ryan and Adam Luehrman, we wondered in the 2022 season preview how the next group of ‘Cats would fare this season and they are off to a solid start with a promising future.
The group has shown some productivity and depth this season. The ‘Cats were rotating three players initially until Alec Burton was injured early in the season. Tyler Foster stepped in and really flashed some ability in the passing game in Weeks 3 and 4 with nine catches for 111 yards and three scores.
With Foster injured at the end of game four versus Fordham, the Bobcats leaned more on redshirt freshman Will Kacmarek and Bryce Butler against KSU. The ‘Cats really liked the matchup of the six-foot-six Kacmarek against KSU, and he helped deliver, catching four passes for 48 yards.
Going forward, look for the chemistry and productivity to grow between QB Rourke and Kacmarek (and Foster and Burton when they return), giving the Bobcats some favorable matchups going through conference play.
The squads get back to action next week when Ohio hosts Akron, and Kent State travels to Miami to take on the RedHawks.