KENT, Ohio – Led by junior Dri Archer, Kent State University erupted for 17 points in the first 11 minutes of the game and handed Towson University a 41-21 loss in the season opener for both teams at Dix Stadium on Thursday night.
Archer got Kent State off to a great start when he took the opening kickoff and returned it 57 yards to the Tigers’ 43-yard line where Alex Blake made a touchdown-saving tackle. The Golden Flashes took advantage of the great field position as they marched 43 yards in 11 plays for a 7-0 lead. Quarterback Spencer Keith’s five-yard touchdown run gave Kent State the lead.
On the Tigers’ fourth play of their first possession, Kent Dooley recovered a fumble by Erron Banks at the Towson 34-yard line. Three plays later, Archer scored on a 15-yard run around left end to give Kent State a 14-0 lead with 6:37 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers fumbled again and Leon Green recovered at the Towson 28-yard line. The Tiger defense held and Freddy Cortez booted a 35-yard field goal to give the Golden Flashes a 17-0 lead with 4:28 left in the opening quarter.
Midway through the second period, the Tiger offense finally got rolling. After Cortez missed a 43-yard field goal, senior quarterback Grant Enders directed a 74-yard, 12-play drive. Sophomore Terrance West scored the Tigers’ first touchdown on an eight-yard run to cut Towson’s deficit to 17-7 with 1:51 left in the half.
However, Archer struck again on the following kickoff. He returned the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to increase Kent State’s advantage to 24-7 with 1:39 remaining in the half.
The Tigers turned the ball over twice in the final 99 seconds of the half. When Derrick Joseph muffed a punt at the Towson seven-yard line with 17 seconds left, it set up a 22-yard field goal by Cortez that gave the Golden Flashes a 27-7 lead at halftime.
In the first half, the Tigers turned the ball over four times and gave up 155 yards of kickoff returns to Archer. Kent State picked up 151 yards of total offense to Towson’s 138 yards.
The Tigers hurt their attempts to come from behind by turning the ball over six times. In 12 games last season, Towson committed only 17 turnovers en route to a 9-3 record and the Colonial Athletic Association championship. It was the most turnovers in a game by the Tigers since they had eight turnovers in a 57-7 loss to New Hampshire in 2009.
“Turnovers are going to happen when you don’t protect the ball,” said Coach Rob Ambrose. “We practice it every day and we stress it every day. However, during practice, we aren’t playing against the type of players that Kent State has. We can’t replicate the size, speed and strength of an NCAA FBS team. Against Kent State, we got a crash course in protecting the ball.”
Trailing by 27-7 at halftime, the Tigers were scoreless in the third quarter. When Josh Boyle caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback David Fisher on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Golden Flashes owned a 41-7 advantage.
However, the Tigers did put together a pair of impressive scoring drives in the fourth quarter to trim the final margin to 41-21. West scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run with 9:38 left to cap off a 67-yard drive. In the final minute, Enders finished off a 58-yard drive with a four-yard TD pass to tight end James Oboh.
“With our backs to the wall, we kept competing in all three phases of the game,” said Ambrose. “To me, that is a very positive sign.”
Surprisingly, Towson had 316 yards of total offense while Kent State had 267 total yards.
Enders completed 26 of 36 passes for 246 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked four times. West was held to 31 yards on 14 carries as the Tigers managed only 70 rushing yards.
Senior defensive end Romale Tucker led the Tiger defense with six tackles and a sack while sophomore linebacker Kenton Powell also had six tackles.
The Tigers return to action on Sept. 15 when they host William and Mary at Unitas Stadium at 12 noon.