Kent State football’s winning streak continues with fifth victory at Homecoming



Kent State running back Dri Archer weaves his way through the Western Michigan defense during the Homecoming Game in Dix Stadium on Oct. 20. The Flashes won the game against The Broncos 41-24. Photo by BRIAN SMITH.

Tim Dorst

Saturday’s homecoming game between Kent State and Western Michigan was every bit the battle that fans expected. The Flashes hoped to extend its Mid-American Conference record to 4-0 this season, while the Broncos were looking to move past early-season inconsistency and find some rhythm.

The game remained close through the first three quarters, with neither team gaining a clear advantage over the other.

Then, something sparked in the Flashes that propelled them over the top in the final quarter.

Kent State scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter on its way to a 41-24 victory over Western Michigan Saturday afternoon at Dix Stadium.

The Flashes improved its overall record to 6-1, becoming eligible to play in a bowl game for the first time since 1972.

Head coach Darrell Hazell said he felt the team showed a lot of poise and character after losing the lead in the third quarter.

“We got ourselves down and managed to fight back,” Hazell said. “Our defense stifled [the Broncos] when they needed to, and the offense made enough plays to get the lead back and keep it going.”

The Flashes wasted no time getting off to a fast start early in the game. A big pass play from senior quarterback Spencer Keith to sophomore wide receiver Chris Humphrey, coupled with a personal foul penalty, moved the ball deep into Broncos territory.

Junior running back Dri Archer followed by cutting to the outside and sprinting 22 yards for a touchdown, giving the Flashes a 7-0 first quarter lead.

The lead didn’t last for long, as WMU receiver Josh Schaffer tied the game on an 81-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen. The touchdown marked the first time this season that the Flashes’ defense allowed an opposing team to score in the opening quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Kent State capitalized on a Western Michigan fumble, and senior kicker Freddy Cortez capped off the next drive by hitting a 46-yard field goal as the rain began to fall in Kent. The field goal, Cortez’s longest of the season, helped the Flashes regain the lead.

The Flashes’ defense continued to make big plays later in the quarter when junior safety Luke Wollet forced Broncos running back Dareyon Chance to fumble, and senior defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix recovered the ball for the Flashes.

Kent State once again took advantage of the sudden change in possession, as sophomore running back Trayion Durham took a handoff and rumbled his way to a 19-yard touchdown run. Durham’s seventh touchdown of the season gave the Flashes a 17-7 lead.

Western Michigan hit a field goal to move within a touchdown of the Flashes as the game moved into halftime.

The Broncos made a major push in the third quarter on their first drive. Running back Antoin Scriven finished off the 68-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17 a piece.

Kent State turned the ball over on its next possession on a fumble by Keith, and Scriven fought his way to another one-yard touchdown run. Suddenly, Western Michigan held a 24-17 lead.

The Flashes responded almost immediately, as Keith completed five of his first seven passes on the ensuing drive. With the ball on the Western Michigan 17-yard line, Keith lobbed a pass into the end zone toward freshman receiver Josh Boyle. Boyle dove and made the catch in the back corner. The tension was palpable in Dix Stadium, and the game was tied at 24.

Archer left the field after he took a hit on the previous play, and Boyle said he felt he had to do something big for his team with Archer on the sidelines.

“We came back to the huddle, and I kept telling myself that I needed to make a play,” Boyle said. “I went out there and was able to do that.”

Kent State forced the Broncos into a three-and-out and got the ball back quickly as the fourth quarter began. Archer began the next drive with a 33-yard catch-and-run, his longest play of the day. Durham followed with a 33-yard run of his own ­— putting the Flashes in position to take the lead back.

Archer took the handoff from the Broncos’ 10-yard line and scrambled left into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the game and eighth of the year. Kent State led 31-24.

On the first play of Western Michigan’s next drive, Van Tubbergen’s pass was tipped by senior linebacker Luke Batton and picked off by senior lineman Dana Brown Jr. Cortez followed the turnover by booting a 43-yard field goal through the uprights to extend the lead to 10.

With the field goal, Cortez tied former Kent State quarterback Joshua Cribbs for first on the team’s all-time scoring list with 246 points.

“He’s clutch,” Batton said. “Kicking is a huge part of the game, and Freddy has been very, very good this season. That’s a credit to him and how much work he puts in.”

The Flashes’ defense made another huge play later in the fourth quarter. Senior linebacker C.J. Malauulu jarred the ball away from WMU running back Brian Fields, and Batton scooped up the loose ball. Batton ran the ball back, dodging tacklers along the way and finishing off with 83-yard touchdown to seal the victory for the Flashes.

Kent State forced a total of six Broncos turnovers. Wollet explained after the game how the Flashes were able to recover after Western Michigan began moving the ball effectively.

“You have to give them credit,” Wollet said. “They game planned well for us, and we had some guys banged up. Fortunately, we were able to cause those turnovers because it shifted the momentum back to our side.”

Wollet said the defense was able to adjust with about 10 minutes to go in the game.

“We started to get a handle on their offense and the way they ran their routes,” Wollet said. “Just some of the little things that you pick up on through the course of a game.”

The Flashes once again handled adversity and came through with a victory. Coach Hazell said that’s one of the biggest differences between this season and last season.

“There’s a confidence and a calmness in the locker room with these guys,” Hazell said. “I think it has a lot to do with their preparation and their trust in each other.”

Batton said, even though the Flashes are officially bowl eligible, they cannot afford to play more relaxed with the game still remaining in the season.

“Each week we are preparing game to game,” Batton said. The only thing that we talk about is getting that MAC championship and heading to a bowl game, but you have to take it week to week.”

The Flashes will take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.

The Scarlet Knights are currently ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press College Football rankings.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].