Four seasons, 10 straight victories: Football runs in record-setting win at Dix Stadium

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

Finally back at Dix Stadium, coach Sean Lewis said, “It’s good to be a winner.”

Kent State’s football team captured its first win of the season at its home opener Saturday – for a record-setting 10th-straight home victory.

“We do all this work, and at the end of the day, the bottom line is that you want to win,” Lewis said. “So to maximize that and to extend the win streak at home, it feels good.”

This win broke the record set from 2011-13. Kent State picked up its win against Long Island University in a 63-10 blowout.

With losses to Power 5 University of Washington and Oklahoma, the Flashes improve to 1-2. LIU dropped to 0-3 on the season.

After a 66-yard drive to kick off the first quarter, the Sharks ended their first possession with a 35-yard missed field goal.

After three runs by junior running back Marquez Cooper in KSU’s first possession, LIU jumped off-sides. Quarterback Collin Schlee got the free play and threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Devontez Walker.

Kent State wide receiver Devontez Walker makes the catch for the touchdown in the first quarter of Kent State’s home opener on Sept. 17, 2022. (Brady Hamilton)

“Usually, I like to get settled in, maybe it’s my feet or throwing in the air,” redshirt junior Schlee said. “But it was good to get that off on the first drive and get a 50-yard touchdown.”

On the next drive, LIU’s Derek Green rolled left, throwing a short pass to redshirt junior tight end Owen Glascos for a 60-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7-7.

Cooper came out hungry, returning the kickoff for 39 yards to start KSU’s next drive. The running back rushed for 22 yards and punched it in from the one-yard line three seconds into the second quarter. Kent State then had a 14-7 lead.

“He is a real guy that puts in real work,” Lewis said. “His effort and his attitude and his mindset individually day in and day out is right.”

The Sharks started at the 35 yard-line after sophomore kicker Andrew Glass had an out-of-bounds kick penalty. LIU answered with a field goal in the following drive.

Kent State got yet another free play on an off-sides, with Schlee completing a 39-yard pass. Multiple runs by redshirt junior Bryan Bradford gave way for a 14-yard touchdown run, extending the Flashes’ lead to 21-10.

After two 3-and-outs by LIU, KSU got to work on the run game.

This time, it was freshman running back Gavin Garcia with his first collegiate touchdown, making it a 28-10 game.

Later, Kent State blocked the punt for a touchdown. Junior wide receiver J.B. Awolowo scored on the blocked kick, after Garcia blocked the punt.

“Gavin Garcia did a nice job not killing any grass and being able to shave that thing off and get a hand on it,” Lewis said. “There was this moment of panic where we just wanted to get [the touchdown], then it’s like ‘Hey, you’re good. Take a deep breath, control it and then go score.’ And they did that.”

Kent State running back Gavin Garcia breaks a tackle during his run downfield. (Brady Hamilton)

Kent State headed to the locker room with a 35-10 lead. Schlee had 124 passing yards with one touchdown. The Flashes had 176 rushing yards at the half, with scores coming from three running backs. LIU was held to just 48 rushing yards.

Schlee opened the second half with a 75-yard drive, ending with an 8-yard touchdown reception from redshirt junior wide receiver Dante Cephas to bring the score to 42-10, Flashes. By the end of the game, Cephas led his team with four receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.

Kent State kept the momentum going – scoring another touchdown in the third quarter and two in the fourth.

That clinched the team’s 63-10 victory.

The Flashes dominated the afternoon on the ground with 353 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. They averaged 7.4 yards per carry. Cooper led the backfield with 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

“When you have balance, you’re able to punch and counter punch and dictate things on your own terms,” Lewis said. “Our kids in that running back room have a certain level of maturity that they know they need to show up and do right.”

LIU went 5-16 on third downs and only had 112 rushing yards. This was Kent State’s best defensive showing of the season. Last week against Oklahoma, KSU allowed only 3.7 rushing yards per carry for 134 yards.

“That is just a big emphasis for our team and our standards,” graduate student defensive end Zayin West said. “We need to dominate on third downs, and we felt like the past couple of weeks we have been slacking in those areas so we just wanted to come out today and dominate.”

West totaled three tackles and a sack.

Green threw for 172 yards and one touchdown. Schlee finished with a 83.3 percent completion rate on 10-for-12 passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns.

Kent State quarterback Collin Schlee shows off his arm in an impressive showing against LIU. (Brady Hamilton)

“Whatever they gave him, he took,” Lewis said. “A lot of that today was handing the football and allowing those guys upfront to work. He sat in there and extended some plays with his feet and did a better job of keeping his eyes down field.”

The Flashes will be back on the road to Athens, Georgia, where they will take on No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs – the defending national champions – at noon Saturday.

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