Kent State entered the 2007 season with high expectations for its young corps of wide receivers. Through two games that unit had just 16 receptions, but on Saturday they delivered with a big-time performance.
Junior Shawn Bayes and freshman Rashad Tukes combined to catch seven passes for 166 yards and scored two long touchdowns in a 38-7 victory over Delaware State in front of 8,455 at Dix Stadium.
"I'm really pleased with our wide receivers," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin. "That's the first time I really saw them go out and make plays like that."
Bayes, who led all receivers with four catches for 100 yards—the first time in his career that he hit the century mark—including his reception that broke a scoreless tie with 1:37 left to play in the second quarter. Bayes out jumped Delaware State defensive back James Robain in the end zone on the play.
"Coach always tells me to use my speed to my advantage and I went up and over him," Bayes said. "I just got a great opportunity."
Tukes made the first reception of his career in the game and later added a 56-yard touchdown reception that gave the Golden Flashes (2-1 overall, 0-0 in the Mid-American Conference) a 21-0 lead with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter. Quarterback Julian Edelman escaped three Delaware State defenders in the back field and found Tukes, who didn't give up on the play, at the Hornets' 38-yard line. Tukes stumbled but maintained his balance and followed the impressive downfield blocking by classmate Alan Vanderink 15 yards into the end zone.
"I broke a tackle and saw Tukes still running," Edelman said. "He was waving his hand. You get excited when you see that stuff as a quarterback."
Things didn't start out well for the Golden Flashes, who allowed Delaware State to convert an onside kick to start the game and in the second quarter gave up a touchdown—which was called back due to a penalty—on a trick play. Offensively, two of the Golden Flashes' first three drives resulted in a punt, the third in a missed field goal; and that was the good news. The last two possessions of the first half, before Bayes' touchdown reception, resulted in turnovers.
Fortunately, the Golden Flashes defense—a unit that allowed just 191 total offensive yards—was on top of its game.
"We didn't feel any pressure because we practice with these guys every day and know what they can do," said senior defensive lineman Colin Ferrell. "We just played hard today; we didn't want to lose our home opener."
Things were different in the third quarter as Rico Murray picked off a Vashon Winton pass on the Hornets' first possession of the second half and five plays later sophomore running back Eugene Jarvis scored on a four-yard run that gave Kent State a 14-0 lead with 11:43 left in the third.
Jarvis carried 22 times for 136 yards and one touchdown. He added three catches for 51 yards and another score. He rushed for over 100 yards for the third consecutive time.
"In the first half everybody was doing their job, but one or two people might have been off," said Jarvis about the Golden Flashes slow start. "We just stuck with it and in the second half we made plays."
Tukes' big play made it 21-0 and Jarvis added a 42-yard scoring reception to push the lead to 28-0 with 14:50 left in the game. Sophomore kicker Nate Reed booted a 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to 31-0 with just 12:10 left to play.
Reed missed a 22-yarder in the first quarter but responded by making his next six kicks—five extra points and a field goal—after getting an earful from Martin on the sideline.
"Nate tested my sense of humor on that (missed) field goal," Martin said. "The positive thing is that he responded well to that kick. From now on I'm going to chew him out in the locker room before we go out."
Delaware State (2-1, 1-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) spoiled Kent State's chance at its first shut out since 1994 when Winton put the Hornets on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run with just 35 seconds left in the game. Kent State responded when Bayes returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for Kent State's first kickoff return for a touchdown since 1999.
"I talked to my receivers coach before the kickoff and said I have to take this one to the house," Bayes said.
Edelman took the blame for much of the offense's struggles in the first half.
"In the first half, that one guy (not doing his job) was mostly me," he said. "I'm not going to lie; I was a little bit rattled. After that big play by Shawn, that settled me down."
Part of his struggles came from Martin, who gave his quarterback strict instructions not to run the football.
"Of course he was rattled, I took his toy away," Martin said. "I told Julian Edelman if he ran the ball I was going to put a knot on his head a boy scout couldn't untie. I wanted him to develop as a passer. I wasn't going to let him run around like Fran Tarkenton. Once he got into the second half he started throwing completions and making plays."
Even more important than Edelman's development in the passing game was the response of the Golden Flashes to their first loss of the season last week at Kentucky.
"I was really pleased with our kids," Martin said. "We talked all week about not losing two games in a row. That's big for Kent State; it's a character issue, not X's and O's."
Kent State moved to 2-1 for the first time since 2003. The Golden Flashes open MAC play next week at Akron in the annual battle for the Wagon Wheel.
GAME NOTES:Bayes' second quarter touchdown was the first of his careerBayes is the first KSU receiver with 100 yards since Najah Pruden did it against Akron on Sept. 30, 2006Bayes' 95-yard kickoff return for a score was the first for KSU since Shawn Shoemaker returned one 99 yards against Navy on Sept. 11, 1999Jarvis' two scores gave him his second muli-touchdown game of the season. He has five touchdowns after posting just three scores all last yearTukes' 56-yard touchdown reception was Kent State's longest play of the yearEdelman had a season-high 267 yards passing and the first three TD passing game of his careerBayes and Jarvis became the first set of KSU teammates to record multiple touchdowns in a game since David Alston and Joshua Cribbs had two each against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 13, 2004Reed's 40-yard field goal was the longest of his careerKent State is now 35-26-1 in home openers since World War II and 20-19 all-time in Dix Stadium openersKSU rushed for more than 200 yards for the third time this season; they had three 200-yard efforts all of last sesaonThe KSU defense limited DSU to just nine first downs; the lowest total since holding Buffalo to just seven on Nov. 6, 2004