MAC East champions v. national champs: Kent State becomes No. 1 Georgia’s strongest competitor yet

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

To a crowd of over 90,000 people, Kent State became the only team to score more than seven points on No. 1 Georgia this season.

“I know people have a lot of opinions, but I believe in my kids and love my kids,” Lewis said. “They put in tremendous work. I was very pleased with the process and the way our kids went about their business. We have our standard within our building, and we believe in what we do.”

The Flashes lost to the reigning national champions 39-22 in Athens, Georgia, Saturday. This was the Bulldog’s smallest margin of victory all season — KSU outscored Power 5 South Carolina and Oregon.

The program is the second team to score more than twenty points against UGA in two years – the last was Alabama.

KSU is now 1-4 on the year, while Georgia improves to 4-0 on the season. The Flashes came in at 44.5 point underdogs in the game, according to betting experts.

This match concluded Kent State’s non-conference play. The team started its season against Power 5 Washington and Oklahoma – both games ended in a loss.

“We have a really talented ball club that has gone through tremendous adversity and conflict in the month of September, and they embrace it,” Lewis said. “We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere. We’re going to take our shot.”

On the second play of the game, UGA sophomore tight end Brock Bowers took a 75-yard touchdown off a sweep to the outside. Lewis said the early score did not get in his team’s heads.

“You don’t flinch,” Lewis said. “Things are going to happen in the arena, and you’re going to get popped in the mouth. So eat the jab, clear it and let’s go and play.”

Kent State then went three and out but recovered a fumble after Georgia’s returner dropped the punt. The team went up for a field goal, bringing the score to 7-3, Bulldogs.

Then the Flashes forced Stetson Bennett’s first interception of the season. Bennett, who took over as the Bulldog’s quarterback last year, threw only seven interceptions last season.

But Kent State could not capitalize off the turnover and was forced to punt.  The kick was blocked and rolled into the back of the end zone for a safety. Georgia, getting good field position off the kickoff, ended with a field goal. The Bulldogs led 12-3 at the end of the first quarter.

At 12:10 in the second quarter, the Flashes forced their third turnover off a fumble. Less than a minute later, redshirt sophomore Devontez Walker sprinted down the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown on a screen pass. This left KSU down 12-10.

“He’s really fast and works really hard,” Lewis said. “He has really developed his body and his skill set since been here with us. Having Tez on one side and Cephas on the other side allows us to have a dynamic duo.”

All three of Kent State’s turnovers came in the first half.

“They are flying to the football and being aggressive,” Lewis said. “As they settle in more, they learn about the scheme and having situational awareness. They can just go and hunt.”

KSU couldn’t stop Bowers as he punched another rushing touchdown to make it a 19-10 game. The tight end would finish as the team-leading rusher with 77 yards. He ended with 60 receiving yards on five catches.

Kent State’s sophomore kicker Andrew Glass responded with a 45-yard field goal.

UGA answered right back with Bennett scoring a goal line touchdown. The Bulldogs went into the half up 26-13.

In the third quarter, UGA scored two field goals, and Kent managed only one field goal. The score was 32-16 at the end of the quarter.

The Flashes ended the third quarter with a fake punt. KSU used the momentum on the drive, allowing junior running back Marquez Cooper to score from one yard out. The team went for an extra two points but failed. Georgia now only led by 10 points.

KSU had 93 rushing yards — its lowest number all season — and Cooper had 90 of the 93 rushing yards.

Lewis had a lot of praise for his special teams.

“They’re the glue,” Lewis said. “There is so much that goes into that work. They are the unsung heroes of the game because there are so many guys that do such amazing things. To tee the ball up and to say  ‘hey we’re gonna kick it deep against the number one team in the country, and we believe in you guys to go down there and get a tackle for loss inside the 20’ — and to start them at the 17-yard line — that’s different.”

The Bulldogs put the game away with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown run from junior running back Kendall Milton to win the matchup 39-22.

Kent State’s redshirt junior quarterback Collin Schlee ended with 174 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Schlee has not had a game over 200 yards passing this year.

“Collin did a great job,” Lewis said. “We have to settle into the game and confirm what you see on tape to make sure that is what you’re actually getting on gameday and so he continues to do a great job of communicating what he is seeing.”

Bennett finished with 272 yards and an interception. This was Bennett’s lowest amount of passing yards of the season, and his first game of the year without a passing touchdown.

Kent State returns Dix Stadium to open MAC play against Ohio University at the homecoming game at 3:30 Saturday.

“I love where my kids are at, and I love where we are in the locker room right now,” Lewis said. “I’m not happy with the results today and am not happy with our record, but I know that we’re a high caliber team and a high character team because of the tests we have been through.”

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