And, in the first half, Kent State took advantage of the inclement weather by using their run game to their advantage, while holding the Huskies for most of the opening 30 minutes.
Daniel Santacaterina and NIU started with the ball but weren’t able to gain much on their first few possessions. The Huskies managed just two yards on their first six plays. Luckily for them, the Huskie defense held as well and allowed just 18 yards on Kent State’s first two drives.
The third time NIU had the ball, Head Coach Rod Carey mixed it up and put in 3rd string QB Marcus Childers, who is much more of a run threat…and boy did that pay off. The Huskies completed a 12-play, 80-yard drive that finished with a 10-yard bullet pass from Childers to Spencer Tears for the game’s first touchdown.
On the next possession Huskie linebacker Jawuan Johnson intercepted George Bollas’ pass at the 34-yard line it looked like the Huskies were poised to increase their lead. Santacaterina came back out as QB and, on first down took a shot into the end zone but, Kent State had other plans as Jarrell Foster intercepted Santacaterina’s pass.
After the teams traded punts, Kent State switched quarterbacks and went with Dustin Crum. Crum found success with his legs and his arms as he drove the team down to the three yard line. On third and goal, Justin Rankin thought he had a game-tying TD but his knee was down at the half yard line, forcing KSU to kick a field goal instead.
On the ensuing kickoff the wind played tricks with the ball, which fell untouched near NIU’s 25-yard line and bounced around before being recovered by the Flashes at NIU’s 19-yard line.
After a penalty punt KSU at the Huskie 9-yard line, Crum tried to make a play on third down but threw the ball right to NIU’s Shawun Lurry who had a great return across midfield to the KSU 48.
Childers once again headed under center for NIU and, after multiple runs, threw a play-action pass to a wide open Shane Wimann for a 25-yard TD score, extending the Huskie lead to 14-3.
The Flashes would start the second half but be forced to punt after Sutton Smith, the national leader in tackles for a loss, racked up another sack/TFL.
NIU wouldn’t be able to do much either and would punt the ball right back. But Raymond James muffed the kick and NIU recovered at the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Childers would find Jordan Huff on the flat for short two-yard TD to push the lead up to 18, 21-3.
On first down for KSU, Bollas came back out but threw a pick to Bobby Jones IV, setting up NIU with the ball just 35 yards away from the end zone. After a holding call and incomplete pass set up a third and 20, Marcus Childers took off on a QB keeper…and he kept going, getting all 20 yards. However, after a hold and a sack, NIU was forced to punt but was able to down the ball at the 1-yard line.
After a quick 3-and-out and just a 31-yard punt, NIU would get the ball back at Kent’s 32-yard line but couldn’t do much with the ball and settled for a 41-yard field goal from Christian Hagan that built the lead up to 21.
KSU would punt on their next possession and NIU, after driving some, would get a little greedy. Childers would attempt a pass into double coverage in the end zone that was intercepted by Juantez McRae.
The Golden Flashes would move backwards on their next possession but a booming 74-yard punt set NIU up all the way back at their own 25-yard line. After a 3-and-out by NIU and a turnover on downs by KSU, the Huskies started around midfield. But, on first down, Huff fumbled the ball and the Golden Flashes got the ball right back.
Unfortunately for Kent, the offense quickly gave the ball back to NIU on another turnover on downs. The Huskies would then just run out the clock, perserving the 24-3 victory.
Kent State finished the game 6/17 passing for just 29 yards and three interceptions. On the ground they just amassed 102 yards on 43 carries (2.3 yards per rush). Crum led the team with 77 yards on 15 carries. Ranking was second with 12 carries and 33 yards. The Huskies forced four Kent State turnovers and held KSU to just 2-16 on third downs.
For NIU, the offense didn’t do much either just gaining 266 yards (114 passing and 152 rushing). Santa was 0/1 passing with an interception. Childers, however, was 13/21 for 114 yards with three TDs and an interception. He also added 65 rushing yards on 17 carries. Huff finished the game with 18 carries for 58 yards. Wimann led all receivers with four grabs for 53 yards and a TD.
Up next, Kent State heads home to take on Miami next week while NIU will head to Buffalo.