For the second year in a row the South Alabama Jaguars frustrated the Kent State Golden Flashes with a 23 -3 victory, this time in Kent State's home stadium.
The game started off on a promising note when the Jaguars were forced to punt after a three-play series with a loss of one yard. But a South Alabama blitz by linebacker Davin Hawkins pressured KSU quarterback Colin Reardon in the end zone, forcing a safety and giving South Alabama the first two points in the game. Later in the quarter, Nate Holley made a diving interception of a tipped ball in the back of the end zone, but a pass interference call on Najee Murray gave the Jaguars a first and goal. Two plays later, senior quarterback Brandon Bridge hit wide receiver Shavaraz Smith for a one-yard touchdown, and the Jaguars leapt ahead of KSU 9-0 in the first quarter.
By the second quarter, Kent State had six drives that resulted in five punts. In 19 plays, KSU managed only 28 yards. South Alabama extended its lead to 16 and 0 after senior running back Jay Jones scored on a one yard touchdown run with eight minutes left in the second quarter. The Flashes came back to life with less than two minutes left in the second quarter with a 69-yard touchdown drive led by Nick Holley. Holley ran 20 years and then nine yards to put the Flashes within touchdown range. The finishing touch came from an eight-yard pass by Reardon to Holley that put Kent State on the scoreboard 16-6
By halftime, South Alabama had amassed 209 yards with 41 plays, while the Flashes only gained 97 yards on 41 plays. South Alabama’s Bridge completed 11 of 16 passes for 131 yards, while Reardon struggled with just six completions out of 18 attempts for 45 yards.
Kent State’s linemen kept the pressure on South Alabama in the third quarter. Freshman defensive tackle Jontey Byrd had two tackles forcing losses on South Alabama, while sophomore defensive end Terence Waugh had a sack, forcing South Alabama to punt on its first two possessions.
Within the first minute of the fourth quarter, Kent State pulled within three points of South Alabama with a 44-yard touchdown pass by Reardon to Casey Pierce, making the score 16-13 USA. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Anthony Melchiori missed a 32-yard field goal attempt, giving the ball back to a South Alabama offense that had all five of its second half possessions to that point end in punts.
But Kent State could not hold South Alabama in the final four minutes. The Jaguars clinched victory with a final 46-yard drive, in which Jaguars senior running back Jay Jones raced to a 23-yard touchdown with just over a minute left, finishing off the Flashes 23 to 13.
"I think we did a lot better up front," Holley commented after the game. "For the most part I think we did pretty well, but we have a long way to go."
The Kent State Golden Flashes now fall to 0-2 (0-1 MAC) for the season. They head to No. 8 Ohio State next week for what will likely be a third consecutive loss.