Junior quarterback Dustin Crum finished with a career-high four touchdown passes.
It was the first time since 2004 that a Kent State quarterback threw for four or more touchdowns in a game. Josh Cribbs threw five touchdowns at UCF.
“There’s a reason that (Crum) earned the opportunity to start,” coach Sean Lewis said. “He really managed all of the critical situations we put him in. We told him that there wasn’t a short leash and if he took hold of (the starting job) then it was going to be his. He’s done that and earned the respect of the team.”
Despite Crum’s play, the Flashes lost 45-38 at Ohio. Kent State drops to 3-4 and 2-1 in Mid-American Conference play, while Ohio improves to 3-4 and 2-1 in the MAC.
Ohio finished with 571 yards total, including 342 passing yards. Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke finished with a career-high 342 passing yards, completing 19 of 28 throws. He added four total touchdowns (two passing and two rushing).
“He’s one of the premier players in our league for a reason,” Lewis said. “He was really efficient on first down and kept them ahead of schedule for most of the day.”
The Bobcats offense averaged 18 yards per completion and the Kent State defense only mustered up one sack for four yards.
“(Rourke) was able to move the ball down the field really accurately,” Lewis said. “He was as advertised and we need to do a better job of containing him.”
Despite the poor defensive performance, Crum put the Flashes in a position to win. He extended his passing streak without an interception to 188 passes (leads the nation). He also added 16 carries for 96 yards. But the Flashes’ defense could not get Ohio off the field in the third quarter. The Bobcats won the time of possession battle by almost 13 minutes, limiting the Kent State offense to 23 yards.
“We didn’t maximize our first possession,” Lewis said. “After that, they did a good job of taking the air out of the ball and limiting our snaps.”
Despite barely having the ball in the third quarter, the Flashes were still in a position to tie the game. With five minutes to play, Crum threw a deep ball down the left sideline for McKoy, but senior safety Javon Hagan deflected the pass with his right hand. The deflection forced Kent State to punt.
“We had a look that we wanted, and I wanted us to get set a little bit quicker to snap the ball,” Lewis said. “We just had to play a little bit of pitch and catch but Hagan will probably be a first-team all-conference safety this year.”
Ohio scored the deciding touchdown four plays later on a 19-yard run from junior running back De’Montre Tuggle to give the Bobcats a 45-31 lead with under three minutes to play.
“I want to have that (defensive) call back,” Lewis said. “That’s on me to give the kids a better opportunity there at the end where that ended up being the difference in the game.”
Two drops summarize the close loss. The first came when sophomore receiver Isaiah McKoy broke open in the end zone and dropped a sure touchdown in the first quarter. He walked out of the back of the end zone, and the officials took an injury timeout, although McKoy walked back to the Kent State sideline without injury.
“He’s one of our most explosive kids,” Lewis said. “It gets looked past how young he is as a true sophomore. So (we) need to learn how to make sure that he’s never too high or too low so that he can be consistently good and not just occasionally great.”
The second drop came when senior receiver Mike Carrigan beat his man on a slant route near midfield. The ball hit him in the hands, but he dropped it. If caught, it would have tied the game, 31-31 midway through the third quarter. Instead, the Flashes were forced to punt later in the drive.
Carrigan finished with seven catches for 72 yards and a career-high two touchdowns, while McKoy had seven catches for 65 yards. Senior receiver Kavious Price added five catches for 85 yards, including a long run after a screen pass. The play resulted in a 54-yard gain on 3rd-and-16, and setup a touchdown two plays later to give Kent State a 24-17 lead with under three minutes to play in the first half.
Senior running back Jo-El Shaw finished with 33 yards on nine carries in his return from suspension. However, senior running back Will Matthews received the bulk of the carries. He finished with 14 carries for 85 yards. According to Lewis, freshman running back Joachim Bangda and sophomore running back Xavier Williams are both game-to-game with injuries.
Despite their second consecutive one possession loss to Ohio, a team that many picked to win the conference before the season, Lewis is encouraged with the team’s performance.
“I’m pleased with the way that our kids fought and the way that we prepared,” Lewis said. “I think our attention to detail needs to continue to improve. I’m not a moral victories guy and there’s lessons that need to be learned here about the way in which we have to be very attentive to our jobs so that there’s no detail that’s too small because that can be the difference in a tight ball game.”
Kent State plays Miami next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Dix Stadium.