Athens, Ohio- It wasn't pretty—and at times, it was downright ugly—but Kent State jumped back into the hunt for the Mid-American Conference East Division title with a 33-25 victory over Ohio in front of 18,297 at Peden Stadium in Athens.
The Golden Flashes (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the MAC) played its first turnover free game of the season, but it was Eugene Jarvis that stole the show. The 5-foot-5, 170-pound sophomore rushed for a career-high 230 yards on 30 carries and scored twice to pace an offense that totaled over 400 yards for the third time this season. Jarvis has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first five games and his 769 yards this season currently have him ranked No. 1 in the nation.
"I give all the credit to my offensive line," said Jarvis, who also caught two passes for 14 yards. "They opened up holes for me and I just ran through them."
Jarvis' performance was one of the bright spots in an otherwise ugly performance that saw both teams combine for 28 penalties for 264 yards.
"I've never been associated in a game in my career when we've been penalized 17 times," said Ohio head coach Frank Solich. "Give me a break. You're not going to get anything done with that. It's almost unbelievable to me that there were 17 penalties thrown at us."
The Bobcats were flagged a school-record tying 16 times for 155 yards.
Kent State head coach Doug Martin saw it differently as his game plan entering Saturday's contest was to take advantage of Ohio's strategy to play man defense to provide extra help up front to slow the Golden Flashes' running game.
"Our plan was to throw the ball deep into their man coverage and force them to be good or get the pass interference," Martin said. "I think (the Bobcats defenders) were getting a little frustrated."
Martin's strategy worked to perfection as the Golden Flashes' picked up five first downs as the result of penalties.
Equally important to executing the game plan, was Kent State's ability to protect the football. Through four games the Golden Flashes turned the ball over 14 times, but on Saturday they ran 75 plays without losing the ball.
"That was huge," Martin said. "I said all along we were a powder keg ready to go off offensively if we don't turn the ball over."
That powder keg exploded early as the Golden Flashes jumped out to a 17-3 first quarter lead.
Ohio won the toss and elected to receive. Kent State forced a three-and-out and took possession at its own 27-yard line. A bad snap on the first play moved the Golden Flashes back to their own 22, but Jarvis broke off runs of 19 and 14 yards before breaking a 35-yard scoring run with 11:11 left in the opening quarter.
"I got great blocking downfield," Jarvis said. "The receivers were blocking very well."
Ohio (2-3, 0-1) responded with a five play, 51-yard drive capped by a Michael Braunstein 28-yard field goal.
The Golden Flashes then drove to the Ohio 8-yard line where Nate Reed banked a 25-yard field goal off the left upright for a 10-7 Kent State lead. Those points were taken off the board momentarily as a Bobcat penalty gave the Golden Flashes a first and goal at the Ohio four. Two plays later Shawn Bayes hauled in a Julian Edelman jump ball in the end zone. Reed's extra point made it 14-3 with 4:46 left in the quarter.
Reed, who kicked a school-record tying four field goals in the game, closed out the first quarter scoring with a 27-yarder that increased Kent State's lead to 17-3.
Ohio senior running back Kalvin McRae scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to cut Kent State's lead to 17-10 at the half.
The Golden Flashes worked quickly in the third quarter to jump out to a 27-10 lead with 9:28 remaining in the quarter. Reed started things off with a 26-yard field goal and Jarvis scored on a 42-yard run.
Jarvis' run came on the second play of a drive that started at the Kent State 38-yard line. On first down, Edelman hit Phil Garner for a 20-yard gain and on the next play Jarvis burst through a giant hole in the offensive line and sprinted into the end zone.
"Eugene, he's a special player," Martin said. "He has great vision and makes people miss in the hole. He has speed—he has everything—and he's got a pretty good offensive line blocking for him."
Ohio responded with a 14-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Theo Scott to Andrew Mooney to cut the Golden Flashes lead to 27-17 with 12:00 left in the game. A pair of Reed field goals extended the lead to 33-17 with just 4:27 left to play, but again the Bobcats responded.
Scott hit Mooney in the end zone for the second time and the Bobcats converted a two-point conversion to make the score 33-25 with 3:00 remaining. Kent State senior cornerback Jack Williams fielded an Ohio onside kick attempt at the Kent State 49; a play that should have sealed the Kent State victory.
But an errant snap on a third-and-six from the Ohio 41 forced the Golden Flashes to punt on fourth and 30 from their own 39-yard line.
"(Starting center) Josh Perry had a little bit of a groin strain," Martin said. "(Backup center) Bill Starry had to go in and he had trouble with snaps all day."
Jake Kilroy's punt was fielded at the Ohio 30-yard line by sophomore special teams phenom Chris Garrett, who returned it to the Bobcats 47-yard line. Ohio was flagged for having 12 men on the field, negating the big return.
The penalty moved the Golden Flashes to the Ohio 46 and Kilroy's second punt was fielded by Garrett at the nine and returned to the 11.
The Bobcats lost 18 yards on a bad snap on first down but three consecutive completions moved them to the Ohio 40 with about a minute to play. Four plays later they turned the ball over to the Golden Flashes, who ran out the final nine seconds of the game to earn the victory.
"Our motto coming in was 'Finish,'" Jarvis said. "This was big for us. We came in here and beat the defending MAC champs; (it was big) especially after a loss last week."
Kent State outgained the Bobcats 402-359 and held a 31:49-28:11 advantage in time of possession.
After struggling last week at Akron, Edelman completed 12 of 25 passes for 169 yards with one touchdown pass. But, his biggest contribution doesn't appear on the stat sheet.
"We really put the game in Julian's hands today," Martin said. "He was checking pass-run coverage. We wanted to run the ball when they weren't blitzing and throw into the blitz. We were going to take our shots (downfield); it worked out real well for us."
The Golden Flashes return home next week where they'll host Miami University.
GAME NOTES:Sophomore running back Eugene Jarvis rushed for a career-high 230 yards on 30 carries, becoming the first KSU player to rush for 200 yards since Josh Cribbs (as a QB) had 223 against Ohio in 2004. However, he is the first KSU running back with 200 yards since Charles Chatman posted 257 against Central Michigan in 1997It was Jarvis' his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, matching what is believed to be a school record set by Don Fitzgerald in 1966. It was also his fourth straight game with a pair of touchdowns, giving him nine on the yearJarvis also had his third 100-yard first half (Kentucky & Delaware State were the others), gaining 120 yards on 16 carries (7.5 avg)Junior wide receiver Shawn Bayes' 44-yard catch in the first quarter tied for the second-longest pass play of the seasonFreshman Alan Vanderink had the first two kickoff returns of his career (45, 44), averaging 44.5 yardsSophomore kicker Nate Reed had his first career four field goal game, matching the school record set by Gordon Ober against Western Michigan on Oct. 10, 1970Senior defensive back Jack Williams had his 11th career interception in the fourth quarter, tying Andy Logan (1985-88) for sixth in school historyKent State is 20-37-2 all-time against OhioThe Flashes are 11-17-1 all-time in AthensKent State scored a season-high 17 points in the first half — all of which came in the opening quarterThe Golden Flashes have not trailed at the half this season (tied twice)KSU has rushed for at least 200 yards in all five games this seasonThe Flashes went without a turnover for the first time since last year's game with OhioKent State avoided back-to-back losses for the second time this season