MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Demetrius Monday returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown and added two interceptions, but the Kent State Golden Flashes’ offense failed to get on the scoreboard in a 10-7 loss to Minnesota Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Monday hit Minnesota's Rashad Still at the end of a 14-yard reception, forcing a fumble that he scooped up before racing down the Golden Gophers' sideline and into the end zone. The score cut Minnesota's lead to just three points with 9:44 to play in the third quarter.
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The Golden Flashes defense continued to get stops throughout the second half, providing opportunities to win or send the game to overtime. The KSU offense, however, couldn't move the chains, turning the ball over on downs in its own territory twice in the final four minutes.
"It's disappointing because we were so close, but I'm extremely proud of this team in all phases," said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. "This is a tough place to play and a tough, well-coached opponent…I couldn't be prouder of the effort."
Monday was just one of the heroes on a Kent State defense that held Minnesota to an average of just 2.5 yards per carry on 43 plays while limiting the Gophers aerial attack to 184 yards on 17-of-27 passing by Leidner.
Matt Dellinger's 13 tackles led a group of four Flashes with double-digit stops, including Nate Holley 12 and Nick Cuthbert and Elcee Refuge with 10 each. Cuthbert, Holley, Nate Terhune and Terence Waugh all added sacks of Leidner.
But it was the fumble recovery by Monday that provided the only score for the Flashes. Monday saw the football pop onto the turf, "and I just thought I have to score," he said. "I had to do something with it. I couldn't look at it and just fall."
The sophomore from Douglasville, Ga. said his forced fumble and two acrobatic interceptions were "all about technique."
"We talk about technique a lot," said Monday, who also intercepted a pass in a week-one loss at Illinois. "Throughout our preparation this week, we worked a lot on getting takeaways. We just brought practice into the game."
The Flashes demonstrated a win-at-all-costs mentality early in the game by going for a 4th-and-short near their own 30 on just the first possession of the game.
"That's our mentality right now," said Haynes. "We are making decisions based on gains and losses. We came here to win, not to play passively."
KSU picked up one of its eight first downs on that aggressive opening, but later decided to punt on fourth-and-three at the end of a rare possession inside Minnesota territory with a little less than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
"At that point, we were only down three and we didn't want to put our defense in a bad situation," said Haynes. "We were playing well defensively and I was confident we could get a three-and-out."
The risk paid off as the Flashes found two more opportunities to drive for a score and a possible upset in Big Ten country.
Minnesota's own fine play on defense and a few mistimed mistakes spoiled those chances.
Kent State's offense managed just 142 total yards, managing 2.5 yards per carry on 31 rushing attempts and netting only 63 yards on 10-of-18 passing by Colin Reardon.
While the Flashes did not turn over the football after struggling in that regard during the first two weeks, they allowed penalties to stall some promising drives.
"Penalties are killing us right now," said Haynes, who pointed to an abundance of flags as one of the biggest disappointments in both a week-one loss to Illinois and a week-two win over Delaware State.
"But when you look at where we have come from week one to right now, we have made a bunch of strides," said Haynes. "We have to continue to make more strides and clean up some things…like penalties. But the effort is awesome by our guys."
(Courtesy of KSU Athletics)