Full recap: Kent State victorious over Howard, 38-31

A group of Kent players kneel and pray before the home opener against Howard on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017.

Scott Lendak

After Kent State’s week one loss at Clemson, the Flashes were determined to play with a chip on their shoulder.

The only obstacle that stood in their way was the Howard Bison, a team that perhaps pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history last week.

The stands were filled with blue and gold as the Flashes hosted the Bison in the home opener at Dix Stadium.

Kent State had a surprise visitor speak to them before the game.

“The most exciting part of the game was that our head coach Coach Haynes was able to address the team pregame,” the team’s interim coach Don Treadwell said. “That certainly had an effect on some of the early things we did positively. Our young men were juiced up and that’s a reflection of our head coach.”

Kent State got off to a fast start when quarterback Nick Holley ran for a 38-yard touchdown on the team’s first play from scrimmage.

Kent State got out to a 14-0 lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Holley to running back Justin Rankin. 

Holley finished with 105 yards and two passing touchdowns and added 119 yards on the ground with one rushing touchdown.

The Bison answered in the first quarter with a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Caylin Newton to receiver Kyle Anthony. The drive was highlighted by a 75-yard catch by Jequez Ezzard. 

“Without question they demonstrated that they can run,” Treadwell said. “We knew coming in that they could run on both sides of the ball, and they showed that.”

Holley led the Flashes down the field when he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to slot receiver Raekwon James. It was James’ first career touchdown catch. The Flashes took a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter. 

“Every week there’s a certain amount of passing we do in practice,” Treadwell said. “Nothing today was new, there were just a few things we were able to take advantage of. They gave us a little more opportunity to be well-balanced this week.”

Howard then cut the deficit once again after a 75-yard touchdown run by Anthony Philyaw. He was untouched on the play, and it made the lead for Kent State 21-14 into the half. 

“We knew they relied heavily on their quarterback and running back,” said Nick Faulkner, a sophomore defensive end. “We wanted to focus more on ourselves because we know if we play fundamental football and do our jobs, we’d be fine.”

Faulkner finished with eight solo tackles and a forced fumble.

To open up the second half, Howard stopped the Flashes, then kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it 21-17. 

After a few possessions back and forth, the Bison attempted to punt out of their own end zone when the long snapper put a ball over the punter’s head and through the back of the end zone for safety. 

The Bison answered once again with a 1-yard touchdown run by Newton to put Howard on top for the first time at 24-23.

Kent State roared back when Kesean Gamble, a freshman running back, rushed in a touchdown from one yard out. Holley added a two-point conversion with his legs to make it 31-24.

The Flashes would not look back. 

They capitalized on a Howard turnover, and Gamble rushed for another touchdown from the 3-yard line to put the Flashes ahead, 38-34.

Gamble’s scores were the first and second of his college career.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the guys on offense,” Treadwell said. “They knew they needed to answer and said, ‘We need to answer this and march this ball in the end zone.’ It all starts up front with the offensive line.”

The Flashes held onto the lead and took the victory, 38-31, as senior cornerback Demetrius Monday intercepted a Newton pass as time expired making it his eighth career interception.

“To get a win in a tight situation against a very good team I think will strengthen us as we move forward,” Treadwell said. “As an offensive coach I can’t speak to the defense, but there were clearly plays that were made.  The good news is we came out with a win with a lot to improve on.” 

The Flashes (1-1) will travel to Marshall (1-1) to take on the Thundering Herd Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Scott Lendak is a sports writer. Contact him at [email protected].