The Golden Flashes gave the Cavaliers a battle for the better part of three quarters before Virginia finally pulled away for a 45-13 win by taking advantage of five Kent State giveaways.
"We talk all of the time about how the ball is the program," said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. "There is no way you can turn the ball over five times and win against a quality opponent … You can't beat two teams on Saturday. You can only beat one. And right now we are beating ourselves."
"That play right before the half was big," said Haynes. "That's taking points off of the board. The explanation (from the officials) wasn't very good. But those things happen. We still have to come out … and play better in the second half. "
Virginia carried the momentum of the Nicholson pick into the second half, blowing open a close game behind a 17-0 third quarter.
All three of Reardon's interceptions came in the first half. He also lost two fumbles deep in Kent State territory in the second half. Virginia turned both fumbles into touchdowns.
In spite of the three interceptions, Kent State's offense moved up and down the field with ease before halftime, out-gaining Virginia 204-154 at intermission. The Flashes led 7-0 after a 45-yard touchdown pass from Reardon to James Brooks with 8:50 to play in the first quarter and then again at 10-7 on a 31-yard field goal by Anthony Melchiori with 1:48 to play in the first quarter.
Virginia tied the game in the first quarter when Maurice Canady returned a Reardon interception 69 yards for a touchdown. The Cavaliers then grabbed their first lead with 14:14 to play in the second quarter on a 25-yard Matt Johns touchdown pass to running back Khalek Shepherd, who broke wide open a wheel route.
While the early-second-quarter score was the beginning of a string of 38 unanswered points by Virginia, Kent State still trailed by just one possession until the 7:06 mark of the third quarter when a 4-yard touchdown run by Kevin Parks extended the Cavaliers lead to 24-10.
A one-yard touchdown plunge by Johns late in the third quarter extended the lead to 38-10.
Kent State safety Nate Holley said Virginia's big second half was as much about "us losing our fundamentals and techniques" as the Cavaliers upping their performance.
Virginia (3-2) added two more touchdowns in the fourth with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Johns to Parks and a two-yard Mizzell touchdown run. After being outgained in the first half, the Cavaliers won the yardage battle 366-114 in the final 30 minutes.
"They didn't do anything differently, really," said Holley, who led all defensive players with 15 tackles. "It was more us beating ourselves."
Anthony Melchiori closed the scoring with a 43-yard field goal for KSU.
Kent State's defense forced three turnovers of its own, including interceptions by defensive lineman Jontey Byrd and cornerback Malcom Pannell, both in the first half. In his first career start, freshman linebacker Marques Moore recovered a second-half fumble, forced by safety Jordan Italiano.
Reardon finished with 239 yards on 15-of-32 passing while Nick Holley led Kent State's rushing attack with 36 yards on 14 attempts. Brooks finished with a team-high 76 yards on three catches.
Kent State (0-4) returns to Mid-American Conference play next week with a Saturday game at Northern Illinois.
Sophomore James Brooks caught his first career touchdown, a 45-yarder from Colin Reardon. It was Kent State's longest offensive play of the season. Brooks had a career-high 76 receiving yards.
True freshman Nathan Puthoff got his first career start at right guard. Puthoff became the fourth offensive lineman to get his first career start this season.
Freshman linebacker Marques Moore got his first career start. Moore became the 14th different Kent State player to get his first career start this season. He also had his first career fumble recovery in the second half.
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jontey Byrd made his first career interception.
Senior cornerback Malcolm Pannell made his fourth career interception and first of the season.
Junior Anthony Melchiori connected on his first and second field goals of the season on two attempts, including a 43-yarder.
Three of Melchiori's punts went for over 50 yards for the second straight game.
Sophomore Nate Holley was Kent State's leading tackler for the sixth straight game with 15 tackles and remains among the nation's leaders.
Junior linebacker Matt Dellinger had a career-high 12 tackles.
Freshman nose tackle Jon Cunningham had a career-high six tackles.
Kent State's 318 total yards were a season-high, as were its 72 net rushing yards and its 18 first downs.
The Flashes have forced at three or more turnovers in three of four games this season.
Kent State had its highest time of possession of a half this season, holding the ball for 19:42 in the first two quarters.
The Flashes lost a fumble for the first time in five games during the third quarter.
With the game's opening touchdown, Kent State had its first lead of the season.