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November 17, 2012

Motor City bound, Kent State escapes Bowling Green

Follow KentStateReport.com on Twitter | Givler | Birmingham

Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1 MAC) welcomed the MAC's only ranked team, the 25th-ranked Golden Flashes (9-1, 6-0 MAC) into Perry Stadium, where the Falcons had won their last three games more than 28 points. Holding a six-game winning streak where they've surrendered just over a touchdown a game, Bowling Green's 9th-ranked defense in the country has been their calling card, and it was that defensive unit that provided them their best chance to upset the Golden Flashes today. For Kent State, a win meant a spot in the MAC championship game for the first time since the conference split into two divisions in 1997.
br> A scoreless, back and forth first quarter saw each team miss opportunities to take an early lead, but a missed field goal by Tyler Tate kept points off the board for the Falcons. A crucial, 16-yard intentional grounding penalty on Kent State's Spencer Keith on 3rd-and-8 from the BG 21 cost the Flashes a chance at their own field goal at the start to the second quarter. It was then Kent State's defense that struck the game's first real blow, senior cornerback Norman Wolfe jumped in front of a Matt Schilz pass at the BG 26 yard line early in the second quarter and put the Golden Flashes in a scoring position. Bowling Green's defense stuffed Trayion Durham on 3rd-and-1 from the BG 15, and Freddy Cortez knocked in a 32-yard field goal to give the Golden Flashes a 3-0 lead.

Following a three-and-out defensive stop by the Golden Flashes, it was Kent State's Dri Archer, the MAC's leader in all-purpose yards per game, who changed the feel of the game from a defensive standoff to barnburner, and like he has all year, Archer did it one play. Following a 4-yard pass from Keith to Josh Boyle, Archer burst through the Falcon defense for a 79-yard score, and it appeared, for a moment that all the momentum had swung to the Golden Flashes.

That momentum didn't last long.

On first-and-ten from their own 28, Schilz dropped back to pass and found Chris Gallon, an explosive 6-foot-4 freshman from Orlando, who outran the Kent State defensive for a game-shifting 72-yard score. Now 10-7, Bowling Green struck again, and quickly, On the first play of the next Kent State series, Keith hit Matthew Hurdle for a gain of four yards, but Bowling Green's Joshua Pettus jarred the ball loose, and the Falcons fell on it, taking possession just one play after scoring. Kent State's defense held firm, holding BGSU to a game-tying 30 yard field goal from Tate, and with 4:26 to play in the first half, it was once again a tie game, this time at 10-10.

Kent State could not capitalize on great starting field position on their next series. Starting from midfield, the Golden Flashes picked up a first down on a 14-yard scramble from Keith, but that was all they could muster before Anthony Melchiori pinned the Falcons at their own 2-yard line after a 32-yard punt. After their own three-and-out, Bowling Green punted back to the Golden Flashes with a minute to play in the half, but again, starting from near midfield, Kent State could do nothing but punt it back and the half ended at 10-10.

The second half started off with much more of a bang.

Keith fumbled on a 16-yard run on third-and-six, and Bowling Green was in business from the Golden Flashes' 40 with only 90 seconds off the clock. It was less than three minutes later than Schilz hit Shaun Joplin on a 27-yard strike to give Bowling Green their first lead, 17-10.

On the ensuing drive, Kent State seemed to remember that their best player had not had a carry since his touchdown run, and decided it was time to feed Archer, and once again, the 5-foot-8 dynamo made it worth their while. On a 6-play, 76-yard drive, Archer had three carries for 27 yards - as well as one reception for another 13 yards - but it was Eric Adeyemi who reeled in Keith's 32-yard touchdown that knotted the score at 17.

After a Bowling Green punt, Keith and the Golden Flashes went back to work from their own 16-yard line. Dinking and dunking, Kent State's offense seemed to have regained some rhythm, but the Bowling Green defense once again snatched it away. Keith's pass was deflected and Jude Adjei-Barimah came up with the interception near midfield

The Bowling Green offense took control with a chance to give the lead back to the Falcons. Starting from their own 44, Schilz found Gallon for seven yards on first down, but the drive stalled and Kent State's defense, which leads the nation with 30 turnovers gained, forced a punt as the third quarter came to a close.

Bowling Green made the decision to avoid Archer by punting out of bounds to the Kent State 26, but they couldn't avoid him as the Flashes offense retook the field. Archer, on the final quarters first play took a handoff from Keith and zigged and zagged through the BG defense for 74-yards, striking a blow the heart of the Falcons' stout defense. Just like that, Kent State was back up 24-17.

Unfortunately, Kent State could not keep big 'mo in their favor, and for the second time in the game, their own defense gave up a quick-strike touchdown one-play after an Archer touchdown. For the second time, it was Gallon who outraced the Golden Flashes defense, taking a Schilz pass 81-yards to even the score again, 24-24. The first two plays of the game's fourth quarter saw two touchdowns, 155 yards of offense and only 29 seconds come off the clock. The game, as they say, was now officially afoot.

Kent State regained possession at their own 41 following a short kick by the Falcons, but were unable to advance the ball past the Bowling Green 35. A Melchiori punt went through the endzone, and BGSU took over at their own 20 with 10 minutes to play.

On the second play of their next series, Kent State's Matthew Pannell procured the Golden Flashes second takeaway, intercepting Schilz at the BG 20-yard line. Once more, the Bowling Green defense needed to step up and shut down a short field for Kent State, but this time were unable to do so. Three Archer carries moved the ball to the 7-yard line, and on second-and-goal, Keith kept it himself and found the endzone - his third straight game with a rushing touchdown - to put Kent State up 31-24 with just over eight minutes remaining.

Bowling Green didn't buckle, and moved the ball surely back down the field towards the Kent State endzone. After a 15-yard gain on 2nd-and-17, the Falcons found themselves with a fourth-and-two at the Kent State 17-yard line. Schilz tried to hit Joplin, but Roosevelt Nix broke up the pass and ended the threat, and Kent State took over at their own 17.

Bowling Green forced a three-and-out, and Bowling Green regained the ball at their own 25 with 2:33 to play. Schilz wasted no time getting the ball in the air, Ten plays and 61-yards later, it was Bowling Green at the Kent State 14-yard line and the game on the line. A first down pass fell incomplete, second down was a three yard loss to Gallon, and third down, intended for Alex Bayer, also fell incomplete. On 4th-and-13, to go for the Falcons, from the Kent State 17, Schilz threw into the endzone and the ball was caught - by Kent State's [db]Luke Wollet - who fell to the ground for a touchback with 21 seconds left. One Spencer Keith knee and the clock ran out on Bowling Green's hopes at an upset bid.

The Golden Flashes, behind 17 carries for 241 yards from Archer, secured their first ever berth in the MAC championship game, and the first 10 win season in school history.

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