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It didn't start out as the offensive explosion that many anticipated it would be, but it ended with another road victory for Kent State; as they got the best of Army 31-17 at Michie Field in New York.
Army's defense, one of the nation's worst units in nearly any important statistical category entering the game attempted to keep Kent State's balanced offense in check with a clock-chewing ground game in the first quarter. Army put together a near eight minute long drive that ended with a missed field goal, and neither team could muster up a score, and the first quarter ended at 0-0.
After an Army punt opened the second quarter, the Golden Flashes would take full of advantage of excellent field position, starting their first drive of the second quarter at their 40-yard line. Kent State, on six straight carries (five from sophomore tailback Trayion Durham) moved the ball to the Army 24 yard line. On first and ten, Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith tossed right to Dri Archer, who sprinted to the edge of the Army defense before stopping and turning, he then lofted a perfectly placed pass to Keith who had slipped out of the backfield and down the sideline unnoticed. Keith hauled in the pass and scampered into the endzone for six, and Kent State, on the Freddy Cortez extra point, took a seven point lead with 11 minutes to play in the first half.
Army once more went back to work on the ground, the nation's leading rushing offense attempted to bully the Golden Flashes but were stuffed again. After one first down, Army was forced to punt and Keith and the KSU offense went back to work; this time with a bit more balanced approach. An Eric Adeyemi 16 yard reception took the ball to midfield, and then Archer struck quickly on consecutive carries for 20 yards. On second and three from the Army 30-yard line, Keith once again found Adeyemi, who streaked across the Black Knights defense and found himself open in the endzone where Keith found him for the score.
Two more Army punts sandwiched a 52 yard punt by Kent State's Anthony Melchiori, and after surrendering only 127 yards to the Black Knights, the first half ended at 14-0, Kent State.
Kent State's first drive of the second half was a quick one, and Army, down two scores got back to work. After moving the ball out from their own 17, Army was faced with a fourth-and-one from their 38-yard line and decided to test conventionality by going for broke. Kent State's Roosevelt Nix stood up Army quarterback Trent Steelman as he attempted to gain the necessary inches, and Kent State, up two scores, took over at the Army 38. A beautiful 21-yard run by Archer set up Kent State inside of the redzone, but the drive stalled and a Freddy Cortez field goal from 28 yards out gave the Golden Flashes a 17-0 lead with nine minutes left in the third.
Army's Malcolm Brown found running room for six yards on consecutive carries, but it was a Steelman pass on a third-and-seven, under serious pressure and being taken to the ground, that really proved to be the wake up call for the Black Knights offense. The ten yard completion kept the drive alive, and Kent State's defense, stout all day, lost a bit of their mojo. Brown gashed the KSU line for 14 yards to the 26 and Army, it appeared, was in business. However, Kent State's defense bowed their backs again and held strong. Led by Luke Batton, who paced Kent State in tackles on the day, was able to hold the Knights to only a field goal, cutting the Golden Flashes lead to 17-3.
Army's conscious decision to avoid kicking the ball to Archer meant that Adeyemi, the other deep returner for Kent State, would have his chances to impact the game on special teams, and his 35 yard return out to the 39 put Kent State in excellent starting field position once again. Of course, that doesn't mean that Archer would be successfully thwarted in the other facets of the game, and the 5-foot-8 , lightning in a bottle struck quickly. Archer burst through the Army defense for 48 yards and down to the Black Knight 7, and just like that Kent State was ready to stretch the lead again. Three players later, it was Durham plunging in from two yards for his sixth touchdown of the year and Kent was back up three scores, 24-3 entering the final quarter.
Steelman and his cadets answered just as quickly as the Golden Flashes a possession before, moving the ball quickly via their triple option running game and yes, even through the air. Malcolm Brown took a pitch from Steelman with 12:10 left in the game over the right tackle and muscled his way into the endzone and suddenly it appeared both offenses had found their stride.
Up 14 points, Kent State took possession at their own 24. Durham found big yardage on the first play off tackle, but consecutive penalties put the Flashes in a 3-and-30 situation, and a Keith incompletion meant Army would retake possession, likely in excellent field position. Melchiori, a freshman from Aurora (Oh.) would have something to say about that, as he boomed a 59-yard punt, besting his previous career best (52) set in the second quarter.
The change in field position could not change the swing in momentum that was happening in West Point, however. Running back Raymond Maples picked up a quick 12 yards, then Steelman found Chevaughn Lawrence for eleven more yards. A play later, it was Steelman once again who got loose for 19 yards on the ground, 19 turned to 34 thanks to a late hit penalty on Kent's Andre Parker. On a fourth-and-two from the Kent State 11-yard line, Maples, fighting for a first down, put the ball on the turf and the Flashes Danny Gress fell on it, ending the drive and essentially, Army's comeback bid with less than seven minutes to play.
Two plays later, it was once again Archer who turned "essentially" into definitely as he went off right tackle and down the sideline for 87 yards untouched for his 6th rushing touchdown of the year to put Kent State ahead 31-10. Archer, who led the nation in all-purpose yards with 230 a game entering competition today, finished his day with 222 yards on the ground on only 12 carries.
An late Army made it 31-17, but the Golden Flashes, despite only 12 first downs compared to 27 for Army, emerged with their first ever win against Army; and the first non-conference road game for the football team since 2007.