Leading to losing to lost: Football falls to Oklahoma in second-straight non-conference struggle

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

With less than one minute to halftime, Kent State led No. 7 Oklahoma 3-0.

The Flashes did not score again. At the half, the board read 7-3, Sooners. By the end of the third quarter, the Big-12 team had scored three more touchdowns.

“It was a game of two halves,” coach Sean Lewis said. “The game got away from us against a really talented team. You can’t put yourself in that position.”

The Kent State football team fell to Oklahoma 33-3 in a second-half Sooners surge. The Flashes dropped to 0-2 on the season, having suffered a 45-20 loss against the Washington Huskies Sept. 3.

Oklahoma improved to 2-0. Saturday was the team’s 11th-straight win at home.

No teams in the Mid-American Conference East have entered conference play yet. Three teams are 1-1 overall, and three are 0-2.

The Flashes ran a dominant defense in the first half, only allowing seven yards rushing from a team that totaled 259 rushing yards in its game against the University of Texas at El Paso last week.

“We’re doing a great job, and the guys are playing with confidence swarming to the football,” Lewis said. “We knew there was a talented group of ball carriers we were going to have to rally and get to the ground.”

Kent State’s defense was near perfect in the first quarter, getting four tackles for loss and pressuring OU’s quarterback Dillon Gabriel with two sacks. Both sacks came from graduate student linebacker Khalib Johns.

“Our guys know we have confidence in them and allow them to go hunt and get after the quarterback,” Lewis said. “They did a great job with that, getting early sacks and being able to get the guys ahead of schedule defensively. It allows us to play tendencies a little bit stronger so we are not in those mixed downs, which is a great competitive advantage.”

Neither team managed to score in the first quarter.

Kent State picked up the offense in its opening drive of the second quarter after a play from redshirt junior quarterback Collin Schlee.

Under pressure, this first-year starter threw a side-arm pass off his back foot to junior running back Marquez Cooper for a sideline grab. Sophomore Andrew Glass came out with a 37-yard field goal.

Lewis talked about his QB’s ability to change his arm mechanics.

“He is able to throw from different arm angles based off whatever traffic or platform he is on,” Lewis said. “He is able to change that arm slot without losing any velocity, and that is a pretty special talent to have. That is something he is able to refine with his strength and the way he is able to grow within our program.”

Kent State’s defense only gave up a total of 159 offensive yards in the first half.

Just when it looked like Kent State would enter the locker room with the lead, junior QB Gabriel connected with OU junior wide receiver Marvin Mims for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds left in the half. At halftime, Oklahoma led 7-3.

“It’s poor game management by me, and I need to be better than that,” Lewis said. “OU had one timeout left, so I needed to run the football. We run the football, it forces them to use their last timeout.”

Schlee totaled 58 passing yards and 54 rushing yards at the half. Gabriel had 151 passing yards and one touchdown.

Momentum shifted when the Sooners came out with the ball in the third quarter. At 12:41, redshirt junior running back Marcus Major broke the tackle for the second OU touchdown of the night. On Kent State’s next drive, redshirt sophomore receiver Devontez Walker had the ball stripped from him.

Oklahoma capitalized off the turnover with a field goal, expanding the gap to 17-3.

Kent State did not score the rest of the battle. OU wide receiver Drake Stoops broke through tacklers and ran it in for the TD, followed by a deep 58-yard touchdown pass to Mims.

The Sooners scored two more points on a safety in the fourth quarter, bringing their lead to 33-3. This was the last scoring play of the night.

Oklahoma had 272 total offensive yards in the second and ran for 127 yards. The Sooners accrued 430 total offensive yards. Defensively, the team had 14 tackles for loss, with three sacks and two turnovers.

Kent State only had 141 yards of total offense in the second half. The Flashes finished with 295 total yards. Last week, they gave up 393 yards from the Huskies.

Schlee finished with 131 yards passing and 55 yards rushing. Gabriel totaled 296 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Lewis saw the positive in the loss.

“We showed that we’re talented,” Lewis said. “When we execute our game plan and do things we are capable of doing, we’re a pretty good football team.”

KSU faces Long Island University (0-2) in its home opener Saturday at noon. The Sharks were shutout by Toledo in their season opener. They lost 38-21 to Villanova Saturday.

The following week, the Flashes play at No. 2 Georgia, their final non-conference match before MAC play against Ohio at the homecoming game Oct. 1.

“Obviously, any time you get the opportunity to go play in Dix is really special,” Lewis said. “I know we’re going to have a great crowd, and the Kent faithful are going to show up for the home opener.”

Jacob Hansen is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]