To stay alive in the hunt for its first Mid-American Conference title since 1972, Kent State needed a big win at Ohio on Saturday. The Golden Flashes delivered with a dominating 20-11 team victory over the Bobcats in front of 17,968 at Peden Stadium.
"It was a great team win by our guys," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin. "I'm not sure that we were great in any area, but we are good together. We're playing good team football right now in all phases. Our guys have a real belief in each other, and that showed today. It was a tremendous effort. We beat a good football team today, Ohio is a good team."
The Golden Flashes' offense racked up 372 yards to just 164 for the Bobcats and the Kent State defense recorded seven sacks against an offensive line that hadn't allowed a sack in five straight games and held the Bobcats to -9 rushing yards, the lowest amount allowed in school history.
"(The defense) got tired of being sick and tired. They are still shaken up by that Bowling Green game," Martin said. "I think emotionally they have gotten themselves back and playing the type of football that we should be playing defensively, and we're contesting the ball better in the air. The coaches have done a great job simplifying things a bit with zone coverage, and that's helped us some too."
The Bobcats (5-3 overall, 3-1 in the MAC) entered the game leading the nation with 23 takeaways, but it was the Golden Flashes (4-4, 3-1) that claimed the game's first turnover when junior safety Brian Lainhart picked off his fifth pass of the season. It didn't take long for the Bobcats to even up the takeaways as Lainhart was stripped of the ball and Ohio's Jordan Thompson returned the ball to the Kent State 4.
Ohio settled for a Matt Weller 22-yard field goal. That lead held up until the 4:44 mark of the second quarter when Kent State freshman Freddy Cortez drilled a 30-yarder to tie the game.
Kent State had an earlier scoring opportunity derailed when freshman quarterback Spencer Keith fumbled at the Ohio 4 on the first play of the second quarter.
"It was a crucial mistake on my part," Keith said. "I had to forget it though; it wasn't going to help hanging on to that in my head."
Keith responded to the turnover with a big second half that led to a big day passing. He completed 23-of-38 passes for a career-high 273 yards and two touchdowns to one interception.
"In the first half we moved the ball and had very few three-and-outs but we had a few mistakes in the red zone," Keith said. "We came back (in the second half) and fought through all that. All the guys were excited, upbeat and ready to play. I felt really comfortable today."
After trading interceptions to start the third quarter, Kent State marched 71 yards in 12 plays to take a 6-3 lead on Cortez' second field goal of the day, a 26-yarder.
Keith threw a short touchdown pass to freshman Tyshon Goode to take a 13-3 lead with 10:14 left to play. Just over three minutes later, the classmates again hooked up to push the lead to 20-3.
Kent State's final touchdown was set up by a Danny Sadler interception, the Flashes' third pick of the day. Keith completed three passes on the 4-play, 49-yard drive, all to Goode. The last pass started with a pump fake to pull two of the three Ohio defenders off Goode, allowing the slippery receiver to make a diving catch in the end zone.
"That was designed to be a takeoff to Goode," Martin said. "He saw the defensive back backed off of him and he communicated that (to Keith) and ran the slant inside."
Goode caught nine balls for a career-high 105 yards and two scores.
Ohio's LaVon Brazill returned a punt 87 yards to close out the scoring for the Bobcats.