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Kent State Rallies to Down Flames, 17-10
Kent State rallied with 10 fourth-quarter points to open its 2013 season with a 17-10 victory over visiting Liberty, Thursday evening, at Dix Stadium.
The season-opening victory extended the Golden Flashes' (1-0) home winning streak to nine games, a run that began during the 2011 season.
Liberty, opening the season against an FBS opponent for the third straight year, falls to 0-1. The Flames, who led 10-7, midway through the third quarter, were looking for their second straight victory over a Mid-American Conference opponent after defeating Ball State, 27-23, in Muncie, Ind., on Sept. 11, 2010.
The Golden Flashes opened their 2013 season with a lengthy 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took over eight minutes off the clock and gave the home team a 7-0 lead with 6:56 left to play in the opening quarter.
Kent State faced a third-down play three times on the drive, but each time the Golden Flashes were able to move the chains. The final third-down play of the opening drive was a third-and-five play from the Liberty six-yard line where quarterback Colin Reardon found Casey Pierce in the back of the end zone for the tight end's first career touchdown reception.
Both teams' defenses took over the rest of the opening half with the two teams combining for 93 yards of total offense before the squads headed to the locker room at halftime.
A defensive play jumpstarted the final scoring drive of the half as Reardon was trying to pick up a first down on a third-and-20 play. The redshirt freshman gained five yards before he had the ball stripped by Chima Uzowihe and the loose ball was picked by Jacob Hagen to give the Flames their best field position of the first half.
Liberty opened the drive in a hurry-up offense that helped the Flames start moving the football. The drive was also kept alive by a pass interference penalty, Kent State's seventh infraction of the first half, giving Liberty first-and-goal from the four-yard line.
However, the Golden Flashes' defense was able to keep the Flames out of the end zone following two rushing attempts by Clifton Richardson and an incomplete pass on a slant route from Josh Woodrum to Darrin Peterson.
The Flames were forced to settle for a 20-yard field by John Lunsford, getting Liberty on the scoreboard, 7-3, with 2:55 left to play in the first half.
Kent State dominated the first-half offensive stat sheet, outgaining the Flames (153 to 15 yards) and doubling Liberty in total offensive plays (36 to 17).
Reardon was an efficient 10-of-14 for 66 yards with a touchdown pass in his first half of collegiate action.
The quarterback was also the Golden Flashes' second leading rusher with six carries for 27 yards. Trayion Durham led Kent State with eight carries for 30 yards.
Woodrum completed three of his five pass attempts for 23 yards, while Richardson led Liberty with six carries for nine yards.
The Flames got the offense going on their second drive after halftime, starting with a 58-yard pass play from Woodrum to Peterson. The sophomore was able to overcome a declined pass interference call with an over-the-shoulder catch to get to the Kent State 30-yard line.
Five plays later and facing a third-and-seven play from the 11-yard line, Liberty went with an empty backfield and gave Woodrum five options to look for. One of the five was able to get open as Gabe Henderson pulled down his first career touchdown reception to put the Flames up 10-7 with 7:25 left to play in the third quarter.
Three drives later, Kent State mounted its second double-digit play drive of the evening, putting the Golden Flashes in position to add to the scoreboard.
Kent State managed to get to Liberty's 22-yard line, but Dylan Bowman and Jibrille Fewell were able to stop Durham on a rushing play up the middle on a third-and-two play. Anthony Melchiori came in on the next play and knocked down a 39-yard field goal, capping off a 14-play, 74-yard drive and tying the game at 10-10 with 10:57 left to play in the fourth quarter.
The Flames tried to respond on their next drive, but it stalled near midfield, forcing Liberty to punt with Grant Bowden's kick pinning the Golden Flashes inside their 20-yard line.
Kent State was able to keep pushing the ball downfield, regaining the lead on its longest play of the day when Reardon found junior wide receiver Chris Humphrey open near his own sideline. The junior wide receiver then avoided two defenders downfield, scoring on a 42-yard reception to give the home team a 17-10 edge with 4:28 left on the game clock.
On the ensuing drive, Woodrum completed passing attempts of six yards to Henderson and 23 yards to Peterson to drive into Kent State territory.
However, Woodrum's next three passing attempts fell incomplete, including a fourth-down try over the middle to Peterson that was heavily defended by Kent State's senior cornerback Darius Polk to halt Liberty's final try to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Kent State outgained the Flames in the game (361 to 222), with Liberty finishing the game with 207 of its total offensive yards during the second half of the game.
Reardon won the quarterbacking battle on the night, completing 21-of-28 passing attempts for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Woodrum finished the night 14-of-22 for 189 yards and the third quarter touchdown pass.
The Golden Flashes' Durham was the game's leading rusher, finishing the night with 21 carries for 92 yards. Reardon followed with 10 carries for 38 yards.
Kent State's returning All-America running back Dri Archer, who rushed for 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012, was limited to three carries for 10 yards after leaving the game in the first quarter with an injury.
Liberty's leading rusher was Richardson, with the Virginia transfer finishing his first game at Liberty with 12 carries for 49 yards.
Darrin Peterson was the game's leading receiver, posting his first career 100-yard game with five receptions for 106 yards. Kent State's receiving leader was Tyshon Goode, who had eight receptions for 75 yards.
Liberty's defensive backfield accounted for three of the Flames' top defenders, starting with safeties Aaron Dial and Jacob Hagen recording eight tackles each. Linebacker Scott Hyland followed with seven tackles, while Walt Aikens had six stops.
Kent State middle linebacker Matt Dellinger was the Golden Flashes' top defender, finishing the game with 11 stops.
Liberty returns home next weekend to host future Big South foe Monmouth in its 2013 home opener on Sept. 7. Kickoff at Williams Stadium is set for 7 p.m.