Flashes football wins 45-43 in dramatic finish

Tim Dorst, Jon Jankowski

The Kent State football team was trailing by a single point with 2:05 left in the game and the ball at its own six-yard line. With time running out on the Flashes, senior quarterback Spencer Keith led them on a drive that can only be described as dramatic.

A 25-yard field goal with six seconds left in the game earned the Flashes a 45-43 victory over the Ball State Cardinals Saturday afternoon at Dix Stadium.

Kent State improves its record to 3-1 on the season, including a 2-0 start against Mid-American Conference opponents. Head coach Darrell Hazell said the players’ high level of toughness was a key factor to the win over the Cardinals.

“I thought our kids did a great job of just battling back and forth and finding a way to win the game,” Hazell said. “This is a team win, and I couldn’t be more proud of our football team right now.”

Ball State took the lead on a touchdown pass with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter. After the Cardinals pinned the Flashes deep in their own territory with a punt, Keith led the charge with a pair of 14-yard completions to senior receiver Matt Hurdle and sophomore receiver Chris Humphrey.

On a crucial fourth-down play from the Kent State 33, Keith zipped a pass to Hurdle for 15-yard gain and a first dow to keep the drive alive.

A 20-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Josh Boyle put the Flashes in field goal range, and sophomore running back Trayion Durham powered the ball for 20 more yards to the Ball State five-yard line.

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That set the stage for senior kicker Freddy Cortez, who booted the 25-yard attempt through the uprights to regain the lead for good.

Keith said he went in to the final drive of the game confident that his team would ultimately score the go-ahead points.

“Because of how we played all day, we knew we were going to come down and score,” Keith said. “We just had that feeling, since it’s happen so many other times. We went out there and just took it one play at a time. We didn’t worry about the clock, we just executed our plays.”

Keith finished with 295 passing yards and three touchdowns. Prior to this game, Keith had yet to throw for a touchdown this season.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Flashes’ offense gained momentum, courtesy of the running game. Junior running back Dri Archer’s 20-yard sweep to the right drove the ball down to the Ball State three-yard line. Two plays later, Durham bulldozed his way into the end zone to put the Flashes up 7-0.

Ball State was quick to answer, as Cardinals quarterback Keith Wenning led a six-play drive that was capped off with a six-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Willie Sneed to tie the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Archer found a hole and burst through the Cardinals’ special teams to the end zone for a 99-yards touchdown. Archer’s second kickoff return score of the season made the score 14-7 in favor of the Flashes.

After a Ball State field goal, Kent State went on a four-play, 75-yard drive leading to a 23-yard touchdown pass from Keith to Archer. The Cardinals added another field goal at the end of the first half, but the Flashes took a 21-13 lead into the locker room.

The second half started with a bang for the Flashes, as Archer gained 48 yards on a throw-and-catch with Keith to advance the ball into Ball State territory. On the next play, Keith found Hurdle for the 28-yard touchdown to put the Flashes ahead up 15 points.

Wenning’s performance in the third quarter helped Ball State get back into the game. His 28-yard touchdown pass to Sneed was followed up shortly by a 13-yard score to receiver Connor Ryan. Wenning had 445 yards and 5 touchdowns in the game.

Archer scored his third touchdown of the game late in the third quarter, catching a 33-yard pass in the end zone to give the Flashes a 35-26 lead going into the fourth.

Durham followed up a third Ball State field goal by pounding the ball over the goal line for a one-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].