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October 21, 2012

Flashes become bowl eligible with 41-24 win

Follow KentStateReport.com on Twitter | Givler | Birmingham

There's a new attitude in Kent, and it's an attitude - and a success story - that's been a long time coming. Head coach Darrell Hazell, in his second season at the helm for the Golden Flashes, fell just short a year ago of reaching the "bowl eligible" plateau that has been so elusive for KSU; it's been since 2006.

A win against MAC opponent Western Michigan on Saturday would move Kent State to 6-1; bowl eligible and to their best start since 1973, in fact, it would be only the third time since 1940 that the Golden Flashes could say they were 6-1.

Kent State came out of the gate quickly against the Broncos, and as per usual, when it comes to quickness, it was Dri Archer struck for the Golden Flashes, but the opening drive for Kent was not without drama. On the third play of the game, on third-and-ten, Spencer Keith found Chris Humphrey for 33 yards to the Western Michigan 37, but Humphrey fumbled on the play. The nation's 3rd ranked team in turnover margin, Kent State was able to recover the ball and with the help of a personal foul call against the Broncos, would have first-and-ten from the WMU 22. That's when Archer struck; the nation's leader in all-purpose yards per game went 22 yards to the endzone for his 13th score of the year and four plays into the game, Kent State was up 7-0.

A pair of punts later, Western Michigan's Tyler VAN TUBBERGEN, starting in place of the injured senior quarterback Alex Carder, made the first of what would be a number of big throws against the Golden Flashes. He found Josh Schaeffer, who raced past the entire Golden Flashes defense 81 yards to pay-dirt to tie the game. It was a quick strike, one play drive for the Broncos, and temporarily silenced the over sixteen thousand fans in attendance.

A Freddy Cortez field goal early in the second quarter regained the lead for Kent State, and when Keith came back onto the field up 10-7 after a Broncos' fumble at their own 40, the senior quarterback from Little Rock (Ark.) he went straight to work to extend the lead. Completions to Eric Adeyemi and a key fourth-and-three conversion to Archer moved the ball to the WMU 28. Three plays later, on another fourth down, this time with a yard to go, it was Trayion Durham who burst through the Broncos defensive line and rumbled for 19 yards and a score. Kent State led 17-7 and seemed to on their way to their fifth straight win against MAC West opponents.

Western Michigan bounced back with a 16 play, 66 yard drive that ended in a field goal, making it a one score Kent State lead, and that's how it would stay heading into halftime.

Kent State struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, and after consecutive Western Michigan scoring drives, the Golden Flashes found themselves suddenly trailing 24-17 ten minutes into the second half, but as they've done all year, Hazell's troops fought back, and did so almost immediately.

Starting on their own 26, Keith completed four straight passes, two each to Matthew Hurdle and Adeyemi, and found themselves with a first-and-ten from the Western 28. Another personal foul call against the Broncos moved Kent State into the redzone, and Keith took advantage, finding freshman Josh Boyle for a 17 yard score to knot the score back at 24-24.

From there, it was all Golden Flashes. First, the defense forced a key three and out, and put the ball back in the hands of Keith and the offense. A 33-yard carry by Archer, followed shortly by another 33-yard jaunt, this one by Durham, put Kent at the Western ten yard line. Archer's second touchdown of the day on the next play closed out the five play, 85-yard touchdown drive that put Kent State back on top for good.

Western would turn the ball over on their next three possessions, including a fumble on the Kent State 17-yard line that was recovered and returned 83 yards for a touchdown by senior linebacker Luke Batton, and Kent State sealed only their third homecoming win in the last 11 years, finishing off the Western Michigan 41-24.

""It's great for everyone in the Kent community," Hazell said postgame. "It's nice for us to get the win for those people coming back. It was a great win for us for a lot of reasons. Our team showed a lot of poise and a lot of character. We got ourselves down, but we managed to fight back and our defense was able to stop them when we needed them to. I was proud of our guys and how they played. These guys keep working day in and day out."

The win stopped a seven game winning streak against the MAC East for Western Michigan, and as the fifth straight win for the Golden Flashes, it matches the team's longest win streak since 2006. It was also the sixth straight home win for Kent State, and the second time this season that the defense has forced six turnovers, putting them at an incredible +14 on the season in turnover margin.

Kent State will hope to continue its winning ways next week with a break from the MAC slate. They head to New Brunswick (N.J.) where they will take on the undefeated and 15th ranked Rutgers.

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