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It was another MAC barnburner for Kent State, but it also - and more importantly - another victory for the Golden Flashes yesterday as they edged Ball State 45-43 thanks to a Freddy Cortez field goal with five seconds remaining.
Once more for Kent State, it was the explosiveness and versatility of Dri Archer that set the tone a ball game that appeared to be heading towards a blow-out but ended up being a nail-biter. Archer's three touchdowns, including a 99 yard kick-off return for a score (his second of the season, he had a 98 yard return for a score against Towson State in the season opener) and Kent State held a 28-13 lead just over a minute into the second half.
Ball State would not lay down and quit, and roared back with consecutive touchdown Keith Wenning led scoring drives to bring the score to 28-26 Golden Flashes with 6:22 left in the third. Wenning found Willie Snead and Connor Ryan on 27 and 13 yard scores respectively - two of his five touchdown passes in the game - and suddenly the game was back on.
Kent State's own Keith - Spencer Keith - responded quickly. Six plays and 64 yards later, Keith connected with Archer again, this time on a 33 yard score, and it appeared that the game was back in hand for the Golden Flashes. Unfortunately for Darrell Hazell and his team, it would once again get tenuous at Dix Stadium in front of 21,657 engaged fans.
A Steven Scott field goal put the Cardinals back within a touchdown at 35-29 early in the fourth quarter when Kent State went back to work offensively. This time, behind the powerful running of sophomore tailback Trayion Durham, Kent went 76 yards in only 8 plays - culminating in a one yard burst for a score by Durham - and at 42-29 with nine minutes to play, the Kent State faithful could finally breath easy. Right?
Wenning once again found Snead for a score with six minutes to play, this time after a 76 yard drive that covered only three minutes of game clock, and it was suddenly 42-36. The ensuing kick off impacted by a holding call, Kent State took over with a chance to ice the game with a grind-it-out, ball control approach, but instead took to the air on first down. Keith's pass was intercepted, and just like that, the Cardinals took over at the Kent State 21 yard line with a chance to take the lead, and they did not wait long to do so.
Kent's J.J. Sanders was flagged for pass interference on the first play of the Ball State possession, moving the ball to the five, and the next play Wenning through touchdown number five, once again finding Connor Ryan, and in the blink of an eye Kent State had seen a 13 point lead turn to a one-point deficit with 5:31 to play in the game.
Both teams would squander possessions following the scores, each of them punting after positing no real threat to the other, and Kent State got the football back with just over two minutes to play at their own six yard line.
It did not get any more comfortable for Kent State after that. On third-and-ten from their own six, Keith found Hurdle for a 13-yard gain to keep the drive alive. A series later, it was a fourth-and-ten completion of 15 yards to Hurdle that got the ball to midfield. A twenty-yard strike to Josh Boyle moved Kent State to the Cardinals' twenty-five with under 30 seconds left. Keith hurried the offense to the line and handed off to Durham, who rumbled through defenders for another gain of 20 down to the Ball State. Two Ball State timeouts would only delay the inevitable, as Cortez snuck through a 25-yard field with six seconds left on the clock to put Kent State back on top 45-43. The field goal was Cortez's 43rd of his illustrious Kent State career, moving him into the top spot all-time for the Golden Flashes.
Keith threw three touchdown passes for Kent State - despite not throwing a single score in the team's first three games - in the most action he has seen this season. Durham led the Golden Flashes in yards on the ground with 91 on 21 tough carries, and Dri Archer added 72 on the ground to go with his team-high 104 yards receiving. His 8 touchdowns on the season bring his career total to 13, and his 350 all-purpose yards are the highest of any MAC player this season. Kent State eclipsed 400 yards of total offense for the third time this season, an accomplishment they only reached once a year ago.