Late miscues by Rankin, Barrett overshadow career days in Homecoming game

Kent+State%E2%80%99s+John+Henry+Bronczek+%2814%29+and+Keith+Sherald+Jr.+%2815%29+tackle+an+Ohio+ball-carrier+on+during+their+matchup+against+the+Bobcats+on+Oct.+6%2C+2018.+Kent+lost+the+game%2C+27-26.

Kent State’s John Henry Bronczek (14) and Keith Sherald Jr. (15) tackle an Ohio ball-carrier on during their matchup against the Bobcats on Oct. 6, 2018. Kent lost the game, 27-26.

Ian Kreider

Kent State (1-5, 0-2 Mid-American Conference) had a balanced offensive attack, but nine second-half penalties and Ohio (3-2, 1-0 MAC) quarterback Nathan Rourke were the difference in the final outcome during Saturday’s Homecoming game.

The Flashes led for 58 minutes and 32 seconds.

Junior running back Justin Rankin, freshman wide receiver Isaiah McKoy and sophomore quarterback Woody Barrett were key contributors from the first snap.

Barrett and McKoy connected on the first play of the game for a 75-yard strike, eclipsing their longest connection of the year. Previously, they had connected for a 49-yard touchdown against Howard.

The sellout crowd erupted as fireworks popped in the background.

“It goes back to the way that they prepare together,” coach Sean Lewis said of Barrett and McKoy’s connection.

McKoy finished with a career-high eight receptions for 118 yards. Barrett was more accurate than any other time this season, completing 77.1 percent of his passes. Rankin rounded out the trio with a career-high 123 yards on 16 carries.

Often, the Flashes’ possessions ended in field goals. Freshman kicker Matthew Trickett finished the day 4-for-4, including a career-long 49-yard field goal before the end of the half.

Kent State’s defense also had three takeaways that ended long Bobcat drives, including two fumbles. Senior defensive lineman Jordan Silva noted defensive coordinator Tom Kaufman focused on takeaways, specifically forcing fumbles throughout the week at practice.

The defense was able to get in the backfield, but Rourke was too elusive. He finished the game 18-for-20 passing for 284 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also added a late rushing touchdown that gave Ohio its first lead of the day, 27-26, with 1:28 left in the game.

The defense struggled against the run-pass option (RPO). Rourke surgically picked apart the Flashes’ defense with his mobility, and when the defense keyed in on him, senior running back A.J. Oullette picked up solid yardage.

Oullette finished with 72 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. The Flashes are now 1-4 against dual-threat quarterbacks.

Kent State had a chance to put Trickett in field goal range for the win after the defense stood up Rourke on the two-point conversion. Their drive sputtered after a false start penalty with 50 seconds left led to a 10-second runoff. Barrett forced the ball into double coverage, and Ohio junior safety Javon Hagan came away with the game-sealing interception.

The Flashes extended their MAC losing streak to seven games.

Kent State will take the field next against Miami (OH) (2-4, 2-1 MAC). The Redhawks are coming off a 41-17 win against Akron, in which they closed out the Zips with a 17-point fourth quarter. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday inside Yager Stadium.

Ian Kreider is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]