Flashes falter on road in loss to South Alabama


South Alabama’s Jay Jones outskirts the Kent State defense during a Saturday Oct. 19, 2013, game in Mobile, Ala. The Flashes were defeated by the Jaguars 21-38. Photo courtesy of The Vanguard.

Nick Shook

Kent State’s sixth loss of the season can be summarized by the end of its opening drive.

The Flashes started the game hot, moving the ball quickly down the field. Kent State covered 51 yards in seven plays, setting up an early 41-yard field goal attempt for kicker Brad Miller.

The kick never made it past the line of scrimmage.

This was the type of afternoon through which the Flashes (2-6, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) struggled, coming close to making game-changing plays but ultimately not seizing the best opportunities in a 38-21 loss to South Alabama (3-3, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) on Saturday in front of 14,351 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

“It wasn’t a very good game,” Flashes coach Paul Haynes said. “It wasn’t well executed, so I told them that I’ll take all the blame. If we don’t play well or like we should, that’s on me. It won’t happen again.”

Mistakes held the Flashes back all afternoon. Multiple false starts buried Kent State on downs and distances that initially were reasonable but ultimately stalled more than one Flashes drive. After the opening drive, Kent State went three-and-out on four of its next six possessions.

“It’s still the same thing,” Haynes said of the miscues. “We had pre-snap penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot, and again, that’s on me. We can’t have it. We talk about it, and it can’t happen.”

Senior quarterback David Fisher, in his first career start, completed 14 of 26 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns, but for much of the first half, Fisher was forced to become a one-dimensional player. The agile quarterback extended the first two drives with his feet, gaining 10-plus yards on multiple occasions to keep the chains moving. With little time to throw, Kent State’s receiving corps was all but nonexistent in the first half.

One player who managed to help keep Kent State in the ball game was running back Dri Archer. Following a 45-yard field goal by South Alabama kicker Aleem Sunanon, Archer took a handoff 74 yards for the Flashes’ first score of the day with 9:41 left in the first half.

But three minutes later, Jaguars quarterback Ross Metheny connected with Danny Woodson on a 16-yard pass for a touchdown, putting South Alabama back out in front by double digits, 17-7. Metheny caused all sorts of trouble for the Flashes, completing 16 of 23 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 21 yards on eight carries.

Archer scored again early in the fourth quarter on a 73-yard pass from Fisher, but with the Flashes trailing 31-7 before the score, it was too little, too late.

“Anytime he has a chance to touch the ball, he can score,” Haynes said of Archer, who finished the game with 114 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. “It’s not a one-man show, though. We need a lot of other people to show up and play, and we got to put (the players) in the proper position and make them successful.”

Tight end Casey Pierce also caught a touchdown pass from Fisher with six seconds to play in the game to bring the score to 38-21.

The Jaguars took advantage of Kent State’s early miscue and went 75 yards in six plays, finishing their first drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by running back Jay Jones.

Running back Kendall Houston scored twice for the Jaguars in the second half, first on a 3-yard run midway through the third and again in the fourth on a 14-yard run. Metheny also scored a rushing touchdown of his own early in the fourth quarter from 16 yards out.

Kent State returns home this week to host Buffalo (5-2, 3-0 MAC), which is coming off two wins in which the Bulls outscored their opponents 55-3. For Haynes, effort is the first thing on which the Flashes need to focus starting Monday.

“We’ve got to show up and go to work because Buffalo doesn’t care how we feel,” Haynes said. “That’s the one thing. It’s on us. We’ve got to show up and play. Like I said, when I sit there and see that type of effort, I take the blame for that. We have to give better effort.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].