The Golden Flashes had not scored a game-winner with only zeros left on the clock since 2003 and Hynes had never experienced the thrill of celebrating a walk-off kick in his entire college and high school career. And yet, Hynes had a feeling Saturday would be his first.
After taking the . . .
"I asked if he was alright, and he told me 'I'm kicking.' I'm going to kick the game-winner," Haynes recounted.
True to his word, Hynes refused to be bothered by two timeouts called by Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego with four seconds on the clock. He simply brushed off the Chippewas' sideline with a wave before booting the ball inside the left upright, igniting a celebration on his own sideline and sending a group of 40 friends and family home happy to Hynes' hometown of Clarkston, Mich.
"I had never kicked a game-winning field goal like this and it meant a lot to me, especially to have my grandparents, my friends, and my whole family here to see it," said Hynes. "I told coach Haynes and the whole team it was going to happen. Sure enough, we get down there and I had the confidence in myself and the whole team had confidence in me. I just did what I was supposed to do."
After taking over on its own 14-yard line with 1:55 remaining, Kent State's offense followed the legs of Nick Holley and Justin Rankin and the hands of Rankin, Raekwon James, and Mike Carrigan on a 68-yard march that set the stage for Hynes' heroics. Holley started the charge with a 20-yard run, then moved the chains again with throws to James and Carrigan for 13 yards each. Two more short passes to Rankin at the end of the drive moved Hynes well within his comfort zone.
"Nick Holley got us down there, the offensive line kept blocking and then held the line on that last field goal," said Hynes. "I'm confident in our whole group. That's the kind of effort we need to have every day, and that's the kind of effort we are going to have the rest of the season…Whoever says we are underdogs doesn't know what's in our hearts."
The Kent State coaching staff had been waiting for this kind of a finish, watching the Flashes stay in battles all season long only to lose three Mid-American Conference games by four points each and a non-conference game in overtime.
"We have come so close in so many games, and finally having that feeling in the locker room means so much," said Haynes, whose Flashes improved to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in MAC play. "Our guys keep fighting. We keep playing the next play and the next play…It's finally good for them to know that if they keep doing that, keep fighting, things will work out. This is a testament to them continuing to believe until it happened."
After building a 10-2 lead behind a 43-yard field goal by Hynes in the first quarter and a 3-yard touchdown pass from Holley to Ernest Calhoun in the second, Kent State watched Central Michigan rattle off 22 unanswered points in a stretch of less than eight minutes.
The Chippewas tied the game at halftime on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Rush to Corey Willis with 26 seconds to play in the second quarter. They then took the lead on a 40-yard Rush-to-Mark Chapman touchdown pass with 9:17 remaining in the third quarter, then extended that advantage to 24-10 with 7:58 to go in the third on Tony Anneese's 28-yard interception return.
Kent State wasted little time getting off the mat, answering CMU's final score with an 8-play, 82-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Rankin at the 4:15 mark of the third. Holley tied the score with 12:54 left in the game on a 68-yard sprint to the end zone.
The Flashes out-rushed Central Michigan 228-to-105 behind Holley's 144 yards on 24 carries and Rankin's 78 yards on 15 carries. Holley also threw for 102 yards on 10-of-18 passing. He completed four of his final five passes for 36 yards in the game's final drive.
Kent State's defense made life difficult for Cooper Rush, intercepting the CMU quarterback three times – two by Kevin Bourne and another by Najee Murray. Terence Waugh sacked Rush twice, adding to a day that saw him block a Central Michigan field goal early in the first quarter. Jamal Parker also blocked a CMU field goal, keeping CMU from breaking the 24-24 tie late in the fourth quarter.
Nate Holley, who leads the nation in solo tackles, finished with a team-high 10 tackles.
Kent State returns home on Nov. 8 to face Western Michigan at Dix Stadium. Central Michigan visits Miami Friday (6 p.m. ET).