The beat goes on for Kent State and second-year head coach Darrell Hazell, as the Golden Flashes improved to 9-1 (6-0 MAC) put in a workman like effort and knocked off the Miami University Redhawks this afternoon in Oxford (Oh.) by a final score of 48-32.
For the Golden Flashes, it started early and continued often after an interception by defensive end Mark Fackler on the Redhawks' first drive gave senior quarterback Spencer Keith and his thunder and lightning backfield of Trayion Durham and Dri Archer great field position to start the day. It didn't take long for the offense to capitalize from the Miami 41 yard line, four plays later it was Durham slashing through the defense from ten yards out to give Kent State a 7-0 lead just over three minutes into the game.
After forcing a Miami three-and-out, Kent State went right back to work, again on the legs of their talented backfield duo. Durham found a hole and burst down the left sideline for a 28-yard gain on third-and-four, moving Kent State to the Miami 35, and the very next play it was the electrifying Archer who exploded through a big hole created by the Golden Flashes experienced offensive line, picking up the necessary yardage for the score. After another Redhawk's punt, it took Durham and Archer only three more plays to find paydirt, as Archer struck again, this time for 43 yards out, out-running the entire Redhawks' defense putting the Golden Flashes up 21-0 just halfway through the opening quarter.
The second quarter saw more of the same, Kent State - averaging 217 yards per game running the ball entering the contest - continued to pound the Miami front seven with Durham doing most of the work. When the sophomore from Cincinnati rumbled off the left tackle for his second touchdown to put Kent State up 28-0 with ten minutes left in the first half, he had already amassed 88 yards on the ground; Archer had 98 for himself at that point.
Miami did not lay down, and finally made a dent in their side of the scoreboard on the next drive, the key play being a 36-yard completion from Zac Dysert to his favorite receiver Nick Harwell on the first play of their possession. The two of them would connect again four plays later, this time a 12-yard touchdown strike to cut the Kent State lead to 28-7. Miami had seized a moment of momentum and turned to their defense to slow down Kent State's offense.
It didn't work.
Archer went 31 yards straight up the middle of the Miami defense on the first play of Kent State's next offensive possession, moving the Golden Flashes into Miami territory. Keith found Casey Pierce for ten yards two plays later and then made Miami pay with his feet. On a read-option, Keith kept it and dropped back to pass, but the Redhawks' defense parted like a red sea, and Keith darted out of the pocket, scrambling for 28-yards to the endzone, increasing Kent State's lead to 35-7. Miami would add a field goal just before the half, and at the break, Hazell's navy blue and gold clad football team, with over 300 yards on the ground, led 35-10 at the half.
As the second half got underway, Kent State went into safe-mode. Miami's offense, which had struggled to move the ball consistently in the first half, would need to step up their pace if they had any chance to come back and knock off the Golden Flashes.
Two Kent State punts gave Miami their chance to make a game of it, and they did just that. Dysert hit Andy Cruse for a 47-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion with under eight minutes to play in the third quarter to cut the Golden Flashes lead to 35-18, and it appeared that momentum had begun to swing back towards the Redhawks.
With Dri Archer on the sideline with a bum ankle, Kent State turned to Keith and Durham, who dinked and dunked their way down the field, trying to chew clock before the drive stalled, Kent State's all-time leading scorer Freddy Cortez knocked through a 48-yard field goal to move the lead back to 38-18.
The Golden Flashes defense bowed their backs and came up with a key stop, and forced a Miami punt; Kent State took over with four minutes to play in the third quarter, up 38-18 from their own 12-yard line. On third-and-12, Durham took a handoff over left guard for 14, and the drive and field position, turned back in the favor of the Golden Flashes as the third quarter clock expired.
With the possession getting a fresh start, Keith found Archer - back in the game - for 21 yards on quick hitter, followed immediately by a 21 yard gain up the gut from Durham, and the Kent State offense was back in business. Two plays later, from the Miami 33, Keith found Archer out of the backfield again, and he once more sprinted to daylight, scoring his third 30-plus yard touchdown of the game, and his 19th total touchdown on the year. Kent State's lead had stretched to 45-18.
Zac Dysert and the Redhawks didn't quit, and took the ensuing drive right back down the field. One again Dysert found Cruse in the endzone, connecting with the 6-foot-4 senior for their second touchdown of the game with nine minutes of MACtion to play, Kent State held a 20 point lead on the road.
As Kent State took the ball back, they turned again to the tandem of Archer and Durham, who did what they've done all year: they ripped a hole through the defense of their opponent. Durham for 12, Archer for seven, Archer for three as the clock became a friend of the Golden Flashes. Keith picked up a key first down on a 4th and inches with 5:32 left in the game, and it was Ice City for the Golden Flashes from there. Another Cortez field goal moved the lead to 23, and Kent State would close it out with more ball control. Miami, despite a valiant second half comeback attempt, fell short at home to an inspired Kent State team.
Miami, unbeaten at home coming into the game, had no answer for the Kent State rushing attack, which totaled 399 yards on the ground on 48 carries. Durham finished with 20 carries for 172 yards, a new career-high and two scores; Archer picked up another 151 yards on just 11 carries, as well as 54 yards on two catches to go along with this three scores. Keith, despite two interceptions, completed 10-16 passes, but also collected 69 yards rushing. Miami's Zac Dysert had a huge game in defeat, completing 35 passes and racking up 431 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort.
Kent State will back on the road in a huge MAC matchup with Bowling Green next week, a game that may very well determine their fate in the MAC championship chase.