AMHERST, Mass. – Youth served up the opportunity and Kent State's defense finished it off Saturday in a 15-10 win over UMass to move the Golden Flashes into a second-place tie in the Mid-American Conference's East Division.
The victory sets up a battle with Bowling Green for first place in the East next week at Dix Stadium.
"Our defense did a really good job and a lot of guys played and contributed," said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes, whose Flashes improved to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in MAC play. "I'm proud of the team effort. The defense did a very good job, but when your offense plays like it did and doesn't turn the ball over…you always have a chance to win."
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Another freshman, Shane Hynes, booted a pair of field goals – a 22-yarder to even the score at 3-3 with 10:04 to play in the second quarter and a 39-yarder into the wind with 9:14 to play in the third, giving the Flashes the lead for good at 13-10.
From there, Kent State's defense made life miserable for quarterback Blake Frohnapfel and UMass' high-powered passing game. Fronhapfel was No. 2 in the MAC in passing at the start of the day, and his top target, Tajae Sharpe, led the MAC in receiving yards. The Minutemen, however, could only manage 51 yards of total offense in the entire second half.
"When you go into a game like this against a team like this, when you are not putting a bunch of points on the board offensively, it scares you," Haynes admitted. "It scares you because you don't know if you can outscore them.
Kent State's defense outscored the UMass offense 2-0 in the second half, forcing Fronhapfel to step out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 9:54 to play in the game. The quarterback tried to get rid of the football as Elcee Refuge and Terence Waugh were bearing down him, but he released the football just after his foot hit the white line.
The Minutemen still found two late opportunities to drive for a game-winning score in the final minutes. After being pinned deep on a punt by Anthony Melchiori, who set the stage for the safety with an earlier punt inside the 5, UMass was forced to kick the ball back to Kent State near the three-minute mark.
The final hope for UMass ended when Fronhapfel threw incomplete on fourth down with less than a minute on the clock.
Kent State led in just about every offensive statistic, outgaining UMass 327-to-257, out-rushing them 192-to-86, completing a higher percentage of passes (20-of-25 compared to 17-for-33), and picking up more first downs (18-16).
Freshman running back Raekwon James ran for 85 yards on 20 carries in what amounted to his first game as the Flashes' primary ball carrier. He was supported by a 79-yard, 15-carry performance by Bollas.
James added eight catches for 56 yards to lead the Flashes, while two more freshmen, P.J. Simmons and Johnny Woods, chipped in four catches each for 42 and 24 yards, respectively.
UMass held a pair of leads – 7-0 after a 5-yard Jamal Wilson touchdown run in the opening minute of the second quarter, and 10-3 after a 28-yard Logan Laurent field goal with 10:04 to play before the half.
Those were the only points the Minutemen would manage all game long despite three trips inside the red zone in the game's first 25 minutes.
"We were playing bend but don't break early," said Kent State safety Nick Cuthbert, who recorded the only interception off Fronhapfel. "Once we got into the groove, we thought we could play pretty well…Our goal is to hold offenses just one point less than our offense scores."
Nate Holley led the Kent State defense with 11 tackles, including one of the Flashes' seven sacks of Fronhapfel. Waugh turned in three sacks, Nate Terhune added two, and Jon Cunninhgam recorded one.
Kent State is now tied with Ohio University for second place in the MAC East standings. The Flashes host first-place Bowling Green at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Dix Stadium. UMass will be at No. 22 Toledo.
(Courtesy of KSU Athletics)