Football falls behind early, fails to recover in loss to LSU



Nick Shook

Photo by Angela Major courtesy of The Daily Reveille.

Dri Archer’s one reception for seven yards suggests that the tailback may have seen too much action too soon.

That appeared to be the case for the rest of the Flashes on Saturday night.

Louisiana State (3-0) started the game off with a 58-yard touchdown run by running back Jeremy Hill, who was seeing his first major action of the season. Four minutes later, LSU was in the endzone again thanks to a 21-yard touchdown completion from quarterback Zach Mettenberger to wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

Six minutes after that, Hill was celebrating his second score of the quarter.

The Flashes (1-2, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) never recovered from the early three-score deficit and suffered a major defeat, 45-13, to No. 6 LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

“Make no mistake, it is a loss,” Flashes head coach Paul Haynes said Saturday night, “but LSU is a very good football team.”

Archer’s return lasted less than one half as the Flashes fell behind almost immediately in the first quarter. Kent State kept pace with LSU in the second, but the Flashes couldn’t overcome the 21-point advantage in the Tigers’ blowout home win.

“When you come into an atmosphere like this – and this is by far to me one of the top five programs in the country – and you go out there and battle, and our guys did. Our guys fought like crazy,” Haynes said. “We will learn from this game. There will not be another setting like this that we have to sit there and go into. We’re ready for it.”

Hill rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries to lead the Tigers’ offense. Terrence Magee followed suit, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

Touted as the Tigers’ much-improved quarterback, Mettenberger lived up to his billing, completing 13 of 18 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Odell Beckham hauled in five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown, and Landry caught four passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns.

“We knew what they were going to run,” sophomore safety Jordan Italiano said. “They obviously weren’t trying to hide anything. We didn’t do a good job executing, fundamental stuff, tackling, gave up big plays. We just need to correct that.”

Kent State was overwhelmed offensively from the outset. The Flashes’ first drive lasted three plays, netting a total of two yards and resulting in a punt. Their second drive consisted of five plays for -16 yards before ending in a punt.

“It was just a lot of mental mistakes tonight,” senior center Phil Huff said after the loss. “We can’t have the penalties. They just killed drives.”

As Kent State’s offense couldn’t get started for much of the first, the defense was taxed. LSU’s three touchdowns occurred on consecutive drives of 86, 57 and 37 yards. Each Tigers’ drive ended in a score in the first half, save for the final 17 seconds in which LSU ran out the clock and entered halftime with a 31-10 lead.

Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon completed 20 of 29 passes for 190 yards, but was shut out of the endzone through the air. Reardon scored the Flashes’ only touchdown on a two-yard scramble early in the second quarter.

The Flashes had a tough time adjusting to the speed and aggression brought against them by the LSU defense, but the offensive line progressed as the game did. Reardon had more time to throw in the second half, despite the large deficit.

“Our offensive line is getting better,” Haynes said. “I think we’re starting to jell as a group up there on the front. We’re protecting a lot better. [Reardon is] continuing to get better, and we will continue to get better as a group.”

Kent State’s other two scores came from kicker Anthony Melchiori, who converted field goal attempts of 37 and 36 yards in the second and third quarters. Melchiori’s lone miss came in the middle of the fourth when he pushed a 48-yard attempt wide left.

Positive points seemed to dominate the postgame comments from Haynes, who took the loss as a learning experience and appeared to be encouraged with how his players remained resilient despite the big loss.

“Next week will be a hostile environment, but we’ve been on the road with a hostile environment like this one, so we’ll be a little more prepared for it,” Haynes said. “I love this locker room and I love this team, and we will continue to fight and get better. I’m excited for the future.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].