Kent State football gets first win, beats Monmouth 27-7

Henry Palattella

Kent State (1-2) had 235 yards rushing and redshirt freshman Mylik Mitchell threw two touchdown passes en route to a 27-7 win over Monmouth University (2-1).

The Flashes – who came into Saturday’s matchup averaging 2.6 yards per carry – had nine different players register a carry.

Mitchell led the way with a career-high 77 yards on 14 carries, while freshman Justin Rankin added 59 yards on 12 carries. Rankin leads the Flashes with 178 yards rushing through their first three games.

Mitchell put together his best game of the year, throwing for 106 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to junior receiver Nick Holley. Holly caught seven passes for 65 yards to go along with his two touchdowns.

Kent State’s defense was stout all night, holding Monmouth to 199 total yards and allowed only two third-down conversions. Saturday also marked the first time since 2013 that the Flashes defense held an opponent under 10 points.

“They’ve got to score on our defense,” said Paul Haynes, Kent State head coach, after the game. “If we’re not turning the ball over and every offense series ends in a kick, then we have a chance.”

Senior Nate Holley continues to be a force on defense, as he led both sides with 17 tackles. Holley – an All-Mid-American Conference selection in 2015 – currently ranks second in the nation with 47 total tackles, and has recorded 15 or more tackles in five of his last six games.

Senior Terence Waugh spent most of the game in the Hawks backfield. He recorded two sacks and four tackles for loss, giving him 14 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in his last 13 games.

Senior Elcee Refuge forced the only Monmouth turnover late in the fourth quarter when he laid out to record a diving interception. Refuge has contributed to a turnover in every game thus far for the Flashes.

“(That interception) was because of the guys who got the quarterback out of the pocket,” Refuge said. “I give those guys credit for getting the quarterback out of the pocket.”

Kent State went into halftime up 13-0 thanks to sophomore Myles Washington’s legs and sophomore Shane Hynes’ foot. Hynes knocked down two field goals and found the end zone from six yards out for his first career touchdown. Hynes is currently fifth in the nation with seven field goal makes.

Kent was tied going into halftime at Penn State and led at halftime against North Carolina A&T.

“We were in the same situation as we were last week,” Haynes said of the halftime lead. “So it was all about not coming out flat and continuing to execute.”

The Flashes executed on their first drive of the second half when Mitchell led the offense on a 15-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Mitchell finding Holley from six yards out to extend the Kent State lead to 20-0.

Monmouth scored their only touchdown late in the fourth quarter when senior Zach Welch rushed it in from two yards out to make the Flashes’ lead 20-7. Welch led the Hawks with 51 yards on the ground.

The Flashes final score came on Mitchell’s best throw of the year. He stepped up in the pocket and threw a pass to Holley, who fell into the end zone and gave Kent State the 27-7 lead. Mitchell now has 353 yards passing this year, with five touchdowns and just one interception.

Kent State will travel Saturday to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take on the University of Alabama.

The Crimson Tide are currently the number one ranked team in the country and are coached by Kent State alumni, Nick Saban. The game is scheduled for a noon kickoff.

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