MOBILE, Ala. – Two long touchdowns by Dri Archer were not enough for Kent State in a 38-21 loss to South Alabama on Saturday in a disappointing return to Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Just 10 months after playing in their first bowl game in 40 years at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the Golden Flashes suffered a loss that will add to the degree of difficulty as they hope to return to postseason play.
At 2-6, Kent State will need to win its final four regular-season games to become bowl eligible for a second consecutive year. Saturday's task was already made all the more demanding by the loss of several impact players. Starting quarterback Colin Reardon, perennial All-Mid-American Conference defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix and punter-kicker Anthony Melchiori all sat out against South Alabama due to injury.
Even with the injuries, the Golden Flashes were not satisfied with their effort.
"I told (the players) I'll take all the blame for it," said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. "That's on me. If we don't play like we should, I'll take the blame, and it won't happen again. We had pre-snap penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot and again, that's on me. We can't have it. We talk about it and it can't happen."
Archer provided some excitement, accounting for two of Kent State's three touchdowns with a 74-yard run in the second quarter and a 73-yard touchdown catch of a David Fisherpass early in the fourth quarter.
A 10-carry, 114-yard afternoon secured Archer's first 100-yard rushing performance of the season. The speedster added 85 more yards on two carries along with a 28-yard kickoff return.
"Anytime he has a chance to touch the ball, he can score," Haynes said. "It's not a one-man show though. We need a lot of other people to show up and play and we got to put (the players) in the proper position and make them successful."
Fisher made some big plays with both his arm and his legs in his first Division I start at quarterback. The senior provided Kent State with a second 100-yard rusher while running 12 times for 106 yards. He also completed 14-of-26 passes for 177 yards in an interception-free performance.
The Flashes continued to fight to the end, tacking on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Fisher to tight end Casey Pierce with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Kent State offense nearly matched the output of South Alabama. The Jaguars won the rushing battle by a slim 259-to-247 margin. And overall, South Alabama out-gained Kent State 483-to-428. But while the Flashes saw several drives end without points, including two on missed field goals, the Jaguars managed to cap their long marches by reaching the end zone.
South Alabama running back Jay Jones opened the scoring with a 5-yard run midway through the first quarter. Fellow back Kndall Houston added touchdown runs of 3 yards in the third quarter and 14 yards in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Ross Metheny accounted for two of South Alabama's touchdowns. His 16-yard throw to Danny Woodson late in the second quarter put the Jaguars ahead 17-7 going into halftime. He also gave South Alabama a commanding 31-7 lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter with a 16-yard bootleg.
Metheny completed 16-of-23 passes for 224 yards. Jones added 99 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Kent State's defense managed four sacks of Metheny, including the first two in the career of Kent Roosevelt High School graduate Marcus Wright, who made the most extended playing time due to the injury to Nix.
Linebackers DeVante' Strickland and Matt Dellinger led Kent State with 12 tackles each.
"We've got to show up and go to work, because Buffalo doesn't care how we feel," Haynes said. That's the one thing. It's on us. We've got to show up and play. Like I said, when I sit there and see that type of effort, I take the blame for that. We have to give better effort. We've got to execute better and we've got to do the little things right. This is the time of the year where fundamentals and technique wins you games. We're not very fundamentally sound."
Kent State's four sacks were a season-high as were its eight tackles for loss.
David Fisher threw his first and second touchdown passes of the season in the fourth quarter. Fisher ran for a career-high 106 yards and threw for a career-high 181 yards.
Senior Dri Archer scored his first rushing touchdown of the season. The 74-run run was Kent State's longest offensive play of the season. Archer's 73-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was Kent State's longest pass play of the season. Archer finished with 199 yards of offense and 227 all-purpose yards.
Archer upped his career touchdown total to 35, tying him with Eugene Baker among Kent State's career leader.
Junior Marcus Wright recorded his first two career sacks in the second quarter. Wright also had a career-high four tackles.
Sophomore nose tackle Chris Fairchild recorded his first career sack.
Linebackers Matt Dellinger and Devante' Strickland each had career-highs of 12 tackles.
Junior tight end Casey Pierce caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season.