Reaction to MACtion: Record-breaking performances rake in homecoming success

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Matthew Brown

The Kent State football team celebrates after scoring a touchdown.

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

In its homecoming matchup, Kent State’s football team became the first team in FBS history to have a 240-yard rusher and a 240-yard receiver in the same game.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Dante Cephas set a program record for most receiving yards in a single game with 246. Junior running back Marquez Cooper earned a personal-best 240 rushing yards and two touchdowns on an impressive 40 carries.

“That’s something I dream about, carrying the ball 40 times,” Cooper said. “I am so thankful for that.”

The two offensive leaders helped propel their team to a 31-24 overtime victory against Ohio University in its Mid-American Conference opener Saturday.

Coach Sean Lewis praised his star running back, who leads the team with 538 rushing yards on the season.

Kent State defensive lineman Stephen Daley dives for the Ohio University player with the ball. (Matthew Brown)

“It is 365, 24/7 with him, the kid absolutely loves everything that is required to be an elite level player,” Lewis said. “So his competitive spirit and his competitive stamina, the way that he works and trains and takes care of himself year round allows him to be that workhorse for us.”

Cephas lead his team with 501 receiving yards on the season. Lewis said he is “resilient.”

“He does a great job of playing each play for what it is,” Lewis said. “They were giving him a lot of attention and rightfully so. He knows he warrants that and has earned that, and he stays consistent throughout.”

The Flashes are now 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the MAC.

Kent State’s offense had a record-breaking offensive performance, earning 736 total yards. Ohio had 450 total yards on offense.

Kent State forced a three-and-out on the first drive and then went six plays, 90 yards for an opening drive touchdown. Cooper ran it in from three yards out for a 7-0 lead.

It was all defense for the rest of the first quarter. Ohio scored early into the second quarter, tying the game up at seven. With 3:46 left in the half, OU took the lead 10-7.

Ohio’s defense was all over Kent State in the first half, forcing three fumbles on one turnover. The Bobcats had two sacks at the half. Kent State had no sacks in the first half.

“They did a great job generating pressure,” Lewis said. “We have to be better with our ball security. In the pocket as quarterbacks, we want to be two-handed monsters and we were low and loose.”

Cooper totaled 98 rushing yards and a touchdown at the half. Redshirt junior QB Collin Schlee was eight for 11, passing for 109 yards.

OU’s quarterback, Kurtis Rourke, had passed for 159 and one touchdown. He ranks 16th in the nation for passing yards.

The Flashes opened up their third-quarter drive with Cooper breaking free for 31 yards. But he fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Ohio. Kent State’s defense then forced a 3 and out.

“He wasn’t perfect today, he’d be the first to tell you that’s not him,” Lewis said. “His wrist got below his elbow there, and the ball got away from his chest and that is what’s going to happen with that. But he’s my guy, and I trust him intimately.”

The drive ended with a career high 50-yard field goal for sophomore kicker Andrew Glass to tie the game at 10. That was the fourth 50-yard field goal in Kent State history.

Kent State defensive back D.J. Miller, Jr. knocks his OU opponent off of his feet. (Matthew Brown)

On Kent State’s next possession, Glass missed a 47-yard field goal. The Bobcats the next drive had a 50-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman Sieh Bangura.

The first three quarters of play were slow for the Kent State offense.

“It was sloppy, and it was ugly,” Lewis said. “When we generated momentum, we either turned the ball over or we had a penalty.”

Kent State had nine penalties, resulting in 80 yards.

With under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Cephas came up with a 45-yard catch and run, following it up with a 16-yard catch, which put Kent State in great field position.

A free play after a Bobcat offside allowed Cephas to make a diving catch on the sideline of the endzone for a touchdown.

“He has done such a tremendous job over his time here of developing his body and becoming a complete wide receiver,” Lewis said. “Where he is really excelling this year is his yards after the catch. He is doing a tremendous job running aggressively, running smart, knowing when he can extend the journey and knowing when the journey is done.”

The very next offensive play, graduate student wide receiver Sam Wiglusz sprinted for 71 yards for a touchdown after he took the catch to the house putting OU up 24-17.

Lewis said the play did not get in his team’s heads.

“[We said] ‘That’s done, let’s do the next thing the right way,’” Lewis said. “That’s done, that is in the past, that sand has already run through the hourglass, and there is nothing we can do about it. So let’s control what we can control and go do the next thing the right way.”

The Flashes responded with an eight-play 75 yard drive at 2:10 for a touchdown. Schlee tied the game 24-24 with a two-yard touchdown run.

With 28 seconds left regulation, Cephas came up with a 54-yard pass, putting Kent State at the 32 yard line. The Flashes, with two seconds left, went for a 47-yard kick, but it was blocked – forcing the game to overtime.

Overtime rules put each team at the 25-yardline. On the first play, Schlee threw to Cephas again for 24 yards to get the Flashes at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Cooper bulldozed his way in for a touchdown, leading 31-24.

On the final play of the game, Kent State graduate student safety Antwaine Richardson came up with a big deflection ending the game.

“We were in a great red zone coverage right there, so my job was to cut the one,” Richardson said. “They basically ran a curl route. They hadn’t hit us on that route there the whole game, so they felt like they could get that right there in the coverage we were playing. So I just made sure I stayed heavy inside and trust the process and play calling.”

Schlee had his best passing performance of his career, totaling 398 yards and a touchdown.

Kent State quarterback Collin Schlee carries the ball into the endzone for a touchdown during the homecoming game. (Matthew Brown)

“You need to cash that check every now and then,” Lewis said. “Being able to put in that work and to throw for almost 400 yards is a testament to him doing the next thing the right way and a testament to what he’s done the past three years.”

Ohio QB Rourke had 322 passing yards.

Kent State takes on Miami (OH) Oct. 8 in Oxford at 3:30.

Despite Saturday’s “ugly win,” Lewis said his team showed its strength.

“It is a win, and that is important,” Lewis said. “We haven’t been in a fourth-quarter fight that we’ve found ourselves on the right side of, and we did that.”

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