Flashes move to 5-1 after win over Army

Oct+13%2C+2012%3B+West+Point%2C+NY%2C+USA%3B+Army+Black+Knights+quarterback+Trent+Steelman+%288%29+greets+players+from+the+Kent+State+Golden+Flashes+after+Kent+State+won+31-17+at+Michie+Stadium.+Mandatory+Credit%3A+Danny+Wild-US+PRESSWIRE

Oct 13, 2012; West Point, NY, USA; Army Black Knights quarterback Trent Steelman (8) greets players from the Kent State Golden Flashes after Kent State won 31-17 at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-US PRESSWIRE

Tim Dorst

Junior running back Dri Archer proved again this week that he is one of the most explosive players in college football. Whether it’s running the ball, catching passes in the open field or returning kickoffs, Archer has made big plays week in and week out for the Kent State football team.

On Saturday afternoon against the Army Black Knights, Archer added passing to his impressive resume.

Archer’s big rushing performance and first career touchdown pass led the Flashes to a 31-17 victory over Army at Michie Stadium in West Point, NY.

The win improves Kent State’s record to 5-1 for the first time since 1973 and just the third time since 1940. The Flashes have also won four straight games and nine of its last 11.

Archer compiled a career-high 222 rushing yards on 12 carries to lead the Flashes’ attack against the Black Knights. Coach Darrell Hazell said the performance almost didn’t happen after Archer rolled his ankle early in the game.

“He came off the field and kind of gave me the puppy dog look,” Hazell said. “I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I told him he’s going back out and that it’s part of the game. He toughed it out and went back out there.”

If Archer’s ankle was bothering him, it didn’t show in his play on the field. Archer shook off the effects of the early injury and wasted little time making his impact on the game.

Running a halfback option play in the second quarter, senior quarterback Spencer Keith gave the ball off to Archer, who threw back to Keith for a 24-yard touchdown pass and 7-0 Flashes lead. It was Archer’s first pass of his career, as well as Keith’s first touchdown catch.

“We saw on film that Army plays a lot of man coverage, which doesn’t usually cover the quarterback,” Hazell said. “It was a play we thought of running three or four plays earlier. I thought Dri made a really good throw and Spencer made a nice catch.”

Kent State’s defense, led by senior linebacker Luke Batton, stifled Army’s offense on the next drive and contained the Black Knights for much of the first half. Batton recorded a career-best 16 tackles for the game as Army converted on just five third downs in 17 total attempts in the game.

The Flashes’ offense capitalized on the stop and extended its lead on the following possession. Keith faked a run on a play-action and threw over the top to senior wide receiver Eric Adeyemi, who made a diving catch in the end zone for a 30-yard score. Keith’s fifth touchdown pass of the season gave the Flashes a 14-0 lead that they took into halftime.

In the second half, senior kicker Freddy Cortez added to Kent State’s lead with a 28-yard field goal, capping off 17 unanswered points for the Flashes. The Black Knights responded next drive, as a 37-yard field goal by Army kicker Dan Grochowski put his team on the scoreboard.

Archer picked up where he left off later in the third quarter. A 48-yard run by Archer set the Flashes up with a first-and-goal at the Black Knights seven-yard line. A few plays later, sophomore running back Trayion Durham lowered his shoulder and plowed into the end zone for his sixth touchdown of the year. Kent State led 24-3 going into the fourth quarter.

The Black Knights started a comeback in the fourth as its triple option began proving more effective against the Kent State defense. A 10-play, 81-yard drive by the Black Knights finished with a five-yard touchdown run by running back Malcolm Brown, cutting the Flashes lead to 14.

Army threatened to score again later in the quarter, driving the ball down to the Flashes’ 11-yard line. On a fourth-and-two for the Knights, senior cornerback Sidney Saulter ended their drive in a flash by stripping the ball away from running back Raymond Maples and allowing the Flashes to recover.

“The big thing we talked about all week long was team discipline and eye discipline with our defense,” Hazell said. “I thought our defense did an excellent job at stopping them the first half. They got some plays on us in the second half, but we came back and got that big turnover on a fourth down.”

On the next drive, Archer put the finishing touches on the Kent State victory. Archer took the handoff and shot up the middle for an 87-yard touchdown run, the longest rushing score of his career.

Archer averaged 18.5 yards per carry in the game and now leads all NCAA Division I players in overall yards per carry with an unprecedented 10.8 average for the season.

“He’s special,” Hazell said. “Every time you hand him the ball, something good’s going to happen. Even when the play wasn’t blocked so well, he was able to make a few guys miss and pick up some big gain.”

This win was particularly special for Hazell, who worked as a wide receivers and tight ends coach for Army in 1997 and 1998. Hazell said it was good for the team to come into the West Point environment and experience the atmosphere there firsthand.

“This is a great place,” Hazell said. “It stands for so much, and there are so many good people here. I thought it would be good for our team to really learn about the country and why our country is so great with all the people who’s represented us from this university.”

Hazell is now 10-8 since he began coaching Kent State last season. To Hazell, there is no question that the Flashes come into every game expecting to win.

“When you get into those tough situations where it’s a close ballgame, they feel like they know how to win now,” Hazell said. “I think it’s a little bit of culture change, but we have to keep working to get better.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].