Midweek MACtion: Football’s 12-game home winning streak shut down by Ball State


Brady Hamilton

Kent State redshirt junior Collin Schlee scans the field for an open player to throw the ball to as Ball State closes in during the game on Nov. 2.

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

After a 13-0 first quarter, Kent State football team’s offense went nearly quiet in a 27-20 loss to Ball State.

Head coach Sean Lewis took the blame – again.

“I need to do a better job of leading this team and this one is on me,” Lewis said. “I did not do a good enough job of preparing the staff and players for a very good Ball State team.”

Kent State is now 3-6 overall and fifth in the Mid-American Conference East at 2-3. The loss ends Kent State’s 12-game home win streak.

Ball State is 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the MAC. The Cardinals are currently second in the MAC West.

The Flashes opened the game with a field goal from sophomore kicker Andrew Glass.

Junior running back Marquez Cooper rushed for 35 yards in the first possession. He became the ninth-leading rusher in Kent State football history.

Kent State junior Marquez Cooper dodges Ball State players as he charges downfield during the game on Nov. 2. (Brady Hamilton)

On Ball State’s second play, KSU’s redshirt senior cornerback Montre Miller broke up a deflected pass, allowing redshirt junior linebacker CJ Harris to come up with an interception.

KSU scored another field goal on the next drive. The score was 6-0 at 9:28.

He passed Dri Archer, who played at Kent State from 2009-2013, for that ninth spot. Archer was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. His 40 career touchdowns at KSU ranks second all-time in program history.

On Ball State’s second play, redshirt senior cornerback Montre Miller broke up a pass that was deflected, allowing redshirt junior linebacker CJ Harris to come up with the interception. KSU scored another field goal on the next drive making it 6-0.

“To settle with two field goals with the way we moved the ball early with an explosive offense that Ball State has, I knew it would be tough to have those three points instead of finishing with touchdowns,” Lewis said. “As things went along, we weren’t as efficient in some areas where we needed to be.”

Kent State forced Ball State to go three-and-out on the next drive.

After eight plays and 48 yards, redshirt junior quarterback Collin Schlee, who was out last game due to a right leg injury, hit redshirt sophomore wide receiver Devontez Walker for a 14-yard touchdown. He later left the game and did not play.

Star redshirt junior wide receiver Dante Cephas, who ranked 19th nationally going into the game with 731 receiving yards, sat out with a lower-body injury. Walker ranked 39th with 616 yards.

“We executed the early part of the plan well,” Lewis said. “The kids did a good job of executing what was there in front of them, taking advantage of those opportunities.”

Ball State’s sophomore running back Carson Steele scored the team’s first touchdown of the game on the fourth play of the second quarter with a 15-yard run. This made it a 13-7 game.

Kent State graduate student Nico Bolden takes down Ball State’s Carson Steele during the game on Nov. 2. (Brady Hamilton)

KSU had strong field position after a 34-yard return on the kickoff, which set the team up at the Kent State 45-yard line. Six plays later Glass missed a 47-yard field goal attempt after making his first two.

Then with 4:54 left in the half, Ball State scored again on a 43-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Jayshon Jackson, taking the lead 14-13. Ball State hit a 34-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half to extend the lead by three.

Kent State did not score in the second quarter.

KSU had just 97 passing yards in the first half, and Cooper had 101 rushing yards.

Ball State had 202 passing yards and 91 rushing yards in the first half.

Ball State started the second half with a 64-yard kick return, setting the team up at Kent State’s 26-yardline. Graduate student kicker Ben VonGunten hit a 31-yard field goal off the good field position.

In the Flashes next possession, Glass missed a 39-yard field goal.

Kent State went 9 plays for 49 yards, bringing the ball into Ball State’s 11 yard-line. The team went for it on fourth down but failed, turning the ball over in the red zone.

KSU’s defense was able to keep the team in the game after an offensive cold streak.

“Griddy, tough – they fought for a majority of the game,” Lewis said. “When we weren’t doing a whole lot offensively, they kept rising up and doing a good job not letting anything affect them and giving us a chance to win.”

Cooper broke Kent State’s second and third quarter slump with a 23-yard touchdown to tie the game 20-20 at 6:08. This was Cooper’s 25th career touchdown – he is now tied for eighth in touchdowns in program history.

Kent State junior running back Marquez Cooper is crushed between two Ball State opponents during the game on Nov. 2. (Brady Hamilton)

In just two minutes and 47 seconds, the Cardinals went seven plays for 75 yards, taking back the lead 27-20 with an eight-yard touchdown pass.

Kent State had the ball on its own 48 on third-and-3 at 2:05. Schlee went for the first down on fourth-and-3 but slid too early, turning the ball over and ending Kent State’s hopes of winning.

“It is bad coaching by me,” Lewis said. “You have to make sure that he clearly understands what the rule is and what the situation is. Fourth down in that situation, he needs to know through me that sliding is not an option and that he has to put his shoulder down.”

Steele, who is the eighth leading rusher in the nation, had 192 rushing yards in the game with a touchdown. Redshirt junior quarterback John Paddock had 242 yards passing with two touchdowns.

Jackson, who is the nation’s 23rd-leading receiver, had 102 receiving yards and a touchdown.

“They are good football players, and we knew that coming in,” Lewis said. “Coming into it we knew that Steele was going to be a big part of their offense and that Jackson coming into the game was targeted over 90 times. They targeted him 18 times and gave Steele 29 carries. Those are the good players and you have to stop the good players in these game[s].”

Cooper totaled 168 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Schlee had just 183 yards passing and one touchdown. He has been averaging 216.38 passing yards a game.

Senior wide receiver Ja’Shaun Poke led the team in receiving with 87 yards. He is third on the team in receiving yards with 195.

Kent State travels to Bowling Green at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“We didn’t do a good job in the gotta-have situations that we stress and emphasize,” Lewis said. “We didn’t win those critical moments, and we were not consistent enough.”

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