Kent State ran through the second leg of its grueling non-conference schedule Saturday, taking on Oklahoma under the lights in Norman, OK.
While the Golden Flashes’ showed an initial tease of an upset alert with a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the first quarter, that was all the tangible progress Kent State generated the entire night. Oklahoma found its groove in the final seconds of the opening quarter and amassed 33 unanswered points to close the contest, handing Kent State a 33-3 loss in the programs’ first ever meeting.
Last week at Washington, Kent State showed signs of promise on offense while the defense struggled in a 45-20 defeat. This week, the roles were reversed. The Golden Flashes came out strong against the Oklahoma offense, forcing three consecutive punts to open the contest. Kent State’s period of defense success intertwined with the team’s most successful offensive sequence of the game — a 15-play, 72-yard scoring drive which concluded in a 37-yard field goal by Andrew Glass.
Kent State was given an opportunity to extend the lead to 6-0, but Glass couldn’t connect from 41 yards. That missed field goal proved to be the momentum shifter, as Oklahoma responded with an expeditious drive where Dillon Gabriel connected with star receiver Marvin Mims on a 36-yard touchdown strike to secure a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.
Oklahoma, favored by over 30 points, held just a 7-3 lead at halftime over the Golden Flashes, but things started to crater defensively for Kent State in the final two quarters. Gabriel captained four consecutive scoring drives coming out of halftime. On the fourth sequence of an action-packed third quarter, Gabriel tested the trusty deep ball with Mims once again and the result was a 58-yard touchdown for the Sooners. Both Gabriel and Mims played efficient games offensively, as the quarterback finished 21-of-28 with 296 yards and three touchdowns, while the receiver caught seven of those passes and rewrote his career-high with 163 yards.
For the second week in a row, Kent State’s run defense did a decent job preventing explosive carries. They limited Washington to under four yards per carry and replicated the feat at Oklahoma. No rusher has attained 80 yards on Kent State’s defense nicknamed the “Soul Collectors” this year — considerable improvement after fielding the 116th ranked run defense in the year prior.
Kent State also limited Oklahoma’s rushing attack by generating three sacks. The Sooners pass rush matched that number on the other side of the ball, but despite sharing equal sack totals, there was a lopsided difference in backfield pressure. Kent State’s five tackles behind the line of scrimmage paled in comparison to Oklahoma’s 14. Danny Stutsman, Reggie Grimes, and Jalen Redmond partied in the backfield from opening kickoff to the final whistle as the trio was responsible for nine of the 14 tackles for loss.
The Golden Flashes started quarterback Collin Schlee for the second consecutive game and the offense kept things relatively grounded with the first-year starter. Schlee only passed 19 times, connecting on 11 attempts for 131 yards. He ranked first among all Kent State rushers for the second consecutive outing, utilizing his legs to pickup 55 yards net of sacks. Outside of Schlee, the running game didn’t disrupt Oklahoma’s defense to the extent needed to pull off the upset. After ranking third in production in 2021, Kent State’s rushing offense has yet to showcase a 60-yard rusher in 2022.
After falling to Washington and Oklahoma by an aggregate score of 78-23 to launch the 2022 season, Kent State’s much-needed home opener finally awaits in Week 3. The Golden Flashes face Long Island of the FCS, a team which got boatraced by Toledo in 37-0 fashion in Week 1. Kent State hopes to do the same and avoid its first 0-3 start since 2014, as the team prepares to play in a third different time zone in three weeks.