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In what was not your typical mid-week MAC contest, Kent State won just their second road game in the last 9 tries when they topped Buffalo 23-7 at UB Stadium Wednesday night in the conference opener for both programs. With points at a premium, the Golden Flashes came out on top.
Kent State (2-1, 1-0 MAC) relied heavily on the dynamic "thunder and lightning" ground attack, highlighted by sophomore Trayion Durham and senior Dri Archer, who combined for 249 yards rushing on 37 carries.
It was a back and forth first quarter, as the two MAC foes - playing for the first time since 2009 - traded punts, before Archer (14 carries for 127 yards) scored his sixth touchdown of the young season with just over 12 minutes to play in the first half. Archer's diving 11-yard touchdown run, stretching out over the pylon, was the end result of a five play, 86-yard drive that saw the speedy senior featured prominently. Archer's 57 yard scamper on from their own twenty-yard line (a new career-high, besting the 47 yard burst that found paydirt against Kentucky last week), set up the Golden Flashes, and after a Spencer Keith 13 yard completion to Matthew Hurdle found them insde the 15, it was Archer who finished the series.
Four plays later it was the Kent State defense and former MAC Defensive Player of the Year Roosevelt Nix that came up big. Nix stripped the ball away from the Bulls tailback Branden Oliver at the Kent State 41 yard line, thwarting what could have been game-leveling drive for the Bulls. Sidney Saultier fell on the fumble to regain possession for the Flashes, who could not capitalize on the turnover, and punted it back to Buffalo.
After another Bulls three-and-out, Kent State went back to work, pounding the ball between the tackles with Durham and attacking the edges with Archer. With first-and-ten from the Buffalo 12, Keith found Archer in the endzone, but it went through his hands and cost Kent State a sure touchdown; instead they ended up setting for a Freddy Cortez field goal and a ten-point lead with 3:03 to play in the first half.
Buffalo gave Kent State another shot for points before the half when Buffalo's Alex Zordich was picked off by Luke Wollett - his sixth interception in the last 12 games - at the Bulls 26. A nice return by Wollett was nullified by an illegal block penalty, but Kent had first-and-goal from the Bulls 25, but were unable to move the ball. Cortez missed a 49-yard field goal, and Buffalo took over with 38 seconds remaining in the first half at their own 33. Another costly KSU penalty, a facemask this time, put Buffalo near midfield and a ten-yard Oliver run had them at the Kent 41 with 15 seconds left in the first. The two teams exchanged penalties and left with for one last play in the first half. Zordich sent his wide receivers deep and sent up a prayer that was answered by a slashing Alex Neutz, who cut through a bevy of Kent defenders at the five yard line, timed his leap perfectly and came down with the ball and sprinted into the endzone with no time left in the first half, cutting the Golden Flashes lead to 10-7.
The second half was an exercise in offensive consistency as Kent State played smashmouth football, rotating Durham and Archer, as well as quarterbacks Keith and David Fisher without worry. The offenses for both teams moved the ball in the third quarter, but only Kent was able to move the scoreboard, thanks to another Cortez field goal with 8:30 to play in the third. Buffalo's ensuing possession saw their deepest penetration of the quarter, but another interception, this time by Darius Polk changed momentum once more to the blue and gold of Kent State.
With the score now 16-7 after a third Cortez field goal, Buffalo came up with a turnover of their own, intercepting Fisher in the endzone on a third-and-goal attempt with just under four minutes to play, but another Polk interception on the following play ended any hopes of a comeback. Freshman tailback Julian Durden scored on his fourth carry of the evening from two yards out to stretch the lead to what would be the final, 23-7 with under a minute remaining in the game.
The three field goals for Freddy Cortez give him 42 in his Kent State career, which ties his for the all-time lead in Kent State history with Travis Mayle.
Spencer Keith, who struggled mightily with turnover issues in early 2011, has now made eight consecutive starts without throwing an interception. He finished the game only 6-15 for 72 yards, but kept the ball moving when it was needed.
With their performances, Archer and Durham became the first KSU tandem to record 100-plus yards in the same game since Julian Edelman and Eugene Jarvis did so in 2008, also at Buffalo.
The forced fumble by Roosevelt Nix was his eighth career forced fumble.
The road win was the first in the month of September for Kent State since 2007, which is also the last time the Golden Flashes started off a season 2-1.
Wednesday night was the second straight contest with over 400 yards of total offense and 35 minutes of possession for Kent State, a feat they only accomplished once in 2011.