Kent State’s (3-6, 2-3 Mid-American Conference) season has been defined thus far by frustrating late-game losses.
This week, the Flashes got to feel what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation, when sophomore kicker Shane Hynes knocked in a 34-yard field goal just before time expired to upset Central Michigan University (5-3, 2-3 MAC), 27-24.
“This (win) starts with this senior class,” head coach Paul Haynes said after the game. “The way that these guys come in and work and keep preparing, it’s unbelievable. I’ve never been around anything like it.”
Hynes’ game-winner came on a day where effective special teams plays were at premium. The Flashes had a punt blocked early in the first half, resulting in a safety and then a field-goal blocked early in the fourth quarter.
‘I’ve never gotten hit that hard,” Hynes said. “That same kind of play happened against Monmouth, but I didn’t get hit that hard. Once I touched the ball I got annihilated, and just kind of (stayed on the field for a second). I hurt my jaw and throat a little bit, but I didn’t hurt my leg.”
The Flashes stepped up on special teams as well, blocking two Chippewa field-goals. Senior defensive end Terence Waugh had a great game on both special teams and traditional defense, he blocked the first kick and added two sacks and three tackles for loss. Waugh has totaled nine sacks on the year.
Cornerback Najee Murray had an interception, a forced fumble and six solo tackles while senior safety Nate Holley added 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Junior safety Kevin Bourne recorded the first two interceptions of his career in the first half.
The ground game was working for the Flashes all game with junior quarterback Nick Holley serving as the catalyst again, with 144 yards and a touchdown. Freshman running back Justin Rankin compiled 78 yards and one touchdown — his first since week two against North Carolina A&T.
The score was tied at 10 at halftime, but both teams reached that score by different means.
Kent State scored first when Hynes knocked in a 43-yard field goal early in the fist quarter, while Central Michigan’s blocked punt rolled out of the end zone for a safety, and then both teams recoded passing touchdowns prior to halftime.
Central Michigan came out of the half executing on both offense and defense, as they used a 40-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Cooper Rush to junior receiver Mark Chapman and then a 28-yard interception returned for a touchdown from senior defensive back Tony Annese, to quickly increase their lead to a 24-10.
Rush finished the game 20-of-43 for 244 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions.
But the Flashes weren’t done.
Rankin got Kent State back on track during their next drive running through for 40 yards to start the drive, finishing it with a touchdown from one yard out. The Flashes evened the score three drives later when Holley ran 68 yards untouched down the sideline. The run is Kent State’s longest offensive play of the year.
Neither team had a drive worth noting until the Flashes ended up at the Chippewas 18-yard line with three seconds left. Central Michigan coach John Bonamego called two consecutive timeouts in an attempt to ice Hynes, but his attempts proved futile, as Hynes knocked the field-goal between the uprights, sending the Flashes sideline into a frenzy.
“Just keep fighting,” Haynes said. “We’ve talked about it all year long, just keep playing. These guys have really bought into it. It’s finally good that they have the feeling that if you keep (fighting), things will work out.”
Henry Palattella is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]