Kent State football loses to Western Michigan

Henry Palattella

Western Michigan (10-0, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) continued its march towards history Tuesday after beating Kent State (3-7, 2-3 Mid-American Conference), 37-21. Western Michigan has now won 12-straight games, which is the second-longest active winning streak in the country. It is also one of five unbeaten teams left in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“Tough, hard-nosed football game,” head coach Paul Haynes said after the game. “Give Western credit, they made some plays down there in the stretch. Our guys fought like crazy for as long as (they) could fight. Once we watch the film I’m sure (we’ll see) lots of good individual efforts. Just came up short.”

The Flashes had momentum on their side early. Sophomore safety Juantez McRae forced Western Michigan junior running back Jarvion Franklin to fumble the ball on the Broncos first play, a fumble that fifth year defensive back Najee Murray took 47 yards for a touchdown.

The Flashes scored on their next offensive possession when junior quarterback Nick Holley ran for a three-yard touchdown, increasing the lead to 14-0.

The Broncos got as far as Kent State’s nine-yard line on their next drive, but the Flashes forced Western Michigan senior quarterback Zach Terrell to throw an incompletion on third down, forcing the Broncos to settle for a field goal. Terrell— who came into Tuesday’s game with 2,362 passing yards and 23 touchdowns on the season — only completed six of 13 passes for 83 yards.

The Broncos were able to cut the lead to one prior to halftime after a two-yard touchdown from freshman running back Davon Tucker and freshman kicker Butch Hampton made a 23-yard field goal.

The Broncos picked up where they left off in the third quarter, as they went on a 20 play, 90-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run from Terrel and then found senior Fabian Johnson in the end zone for the two-point conversion to take a 21-14 lead. The running game was key on that drive for the Broncos, as they attempted only one pass during the drive.

The Broncos ground game was a story all night, as they complied 329 yards on the ground from 64 carries. Franklin led the charge with 134 yards and a touchdown and he was countered by Johnson, who rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown.

“(Western Michigan coach) PJ Fleck … usually gets the lead and then runs it to win the time of possession, but they weren’t able to do that with us,” Haynes said. “(They) just kept it close enough so they could stay running the football and stay pounding it at the end.”

Kent State responded on their next drive when Holley broke off a 30-yard run that put the Flashes in Broncos territory followed by a 20-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Justin Rankin, tying the game at 21 points.

The Broncos pulled ahead on the Flashes next possession when Rankin was tackled in the end zone for a safety. The Broncos got the ball back after the safety and promptly went on a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended when Franklin broke free and found the end zone from 19 yards out.

The Broncos added another score later in the quarter when Johnson plunged into the end zone from five yards out.

Central Michigan — who was ranked 21st in the most recent college football playoff poll— plays Buffalo (2-7, 1-4 MAC) in two weeks as it continues its quest for an undefeated season, while Kent State will play its final away game Tuesday at Bowling Green State University (1-8, 0-5 MAC).

 Henry Palattella is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]