‘We’ve come a long, long way’

Sean Ammerman

Kent State bests rival Miami in first MAC game

Miami running back Brandon Murphy has his helmet knocked off by freshman linebacker Calvin Taylor and senior defensive back Andre Kirkland in the third quarter Saturday. SEAN DAUGHERTY | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

It had been 371 days since the Kent State football team last tasted victory.

And while Kent State coach Doug Martin said the 16-14 win Saturday in Oxford against Miami wasn’t pretty, it was enough to snap an 11-game losing streak.

Martin said the win took a load off the team’s shoulders.

“I’m really proud of our football team. We’ve come a long, long way,” he said after the game. “It was a huge win, but it wasn’t so much for me as it was for our players. It has been a tough year coming off of last season.”

With a 16-0 lead in the third quarter, the Flashes had several chances to put the game away.

Freshman kicker Nate Reed missed an extra point and later had a field goal blocked that could have kept the game out of the RedHawks’ reach, as could a Kent State opening drive that ended with a fumble at the Miami 2-yard line. Kent State’s defense also dropped three would-be interceptions.

Miami was able to capitalize on an interception late in the third quarter on Kent State’s 30-yard line. With a shortened field, Miami drove to a touchdown scored by running back Brandon Murphy. Miami quarterback Mike Kokal then completed a pass for the two-point conversion, making it a one-touchdown game.

This set the stage for a final Miami drive in the fourth quarter.

Starting from their own 20-yard line, the RedHawks ate up six minutes and 19 plays with a touchdown drive that was kept alive by three fourth-down conversions.

With the score at 16-14, Miami went for the two-point conversion that would have tied the game, but the pass from Kokal sailed over wide receiver Ryan Busing.

“I don’t think we underestimated (Kent State),” Kokal said. “We went out there and they beat us. They just did a lot of stuff up front that confused our guys. It was tough to pick up.”

Miami coach Shane Montgomery gave credit to what he said was a much-improved Kent State football team after the game. He added the RedHawks did not play to their full potential, and hurt themselves by committing nine penalties.

“We are no where near as consistent as we need to be right now,” Montgomery said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot again. We tried anything to get going on offense today. We have to play more consistent football to give us a chance to win.”

Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman had his best outing of the season, totaling 244 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. Edelman also avoided being sacked on his way to rushing for 61 yards.

“We looked at all the passes we should have completed last week and we worked on it,” Edelman said. “I’m happy with the way we played, but we could have done a lot better.”

In the first quarter, he connected with wide receiver Najah Pruden for a 16-yard touchdown pass. The score stemmed from a 55-yard reception by Pruden earlier in the drive.

Pruden ended the game with 145 yards on five catches, which moves him up to the No. 10 spot on Kent State’s list of all-time reception leaders.

“We came into the game looking at it as every MAC game is like a MAC Championship for us,” Pruden said. “This could really get things kick started.”

In the third quarter, Edelman drove his team 80 yards to its second touchdown of the game, which was capped off by an Edelman’s quarterback sneak into the end zone.

Kent State totaled 142 rushing yards, led by running back Eugene Jarvis with 63 yards. The team garnered 386 total yards for its finest offensive output of the season.

Defensively, Kent State held Miami, which scored 31 points against Purdue last week, scoreless until late in the third quarter.

“This is really a different Kent State team than we’ve had in the past,” Martin said. “They have a different mentality about them, they have had a confidence about them since last spring.”

Contact assistant sports reporter Sean Ammerman at [email protected].