By Alvin Barba
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of Kennesaw State athletics
KENNESAW, GA. — When Kennesaw State played its Big South Conference opener against Gardner-Webb Saturday on Saturday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium it was going to be historic regardless of the outcome.
Just the fact that the Owls (5-1, 1-0) are playing their inaugural season and first conference game had historic significance. And when defensive lineman Nick Perrotta intercepted a pass near the KSU goal line with under :10 remaining to preserve a 12-7 victory, more history was made.
It marked the first time in Big South Conference history, excluding its first year of 2002, that a newcomer to the conference won its first league game played.
Leading the way was junior quarterback Trey White, a dominating defense and freshman placekicker Justin Thompson, who tied a Big South Conference single-game record with four field goals.
Thompson and the KSU offense answered a Gardner-Webb touchdown with 5:33 remaining with a 31-yard field goal with 1:44 left on the clock that gave the Owls a 12-7 lead.
Following the ensuing kickoff, the Runnin’ Bulldogs (2-4, 1-1) took over at their own 40-yard line with 1:40 remaining and drove down to the Kennesaw State 4-yard where they faced a fourth-and-goal with :07 remaining.
Needing a touchdown to win the game, Gardner-Webb quarterback Tyrell Maxwell dropped back, and under pressure, threw a pass toward the end zone that was intercepted by Perrotta that preserved a hard-fought victory and improved the Owls to 4-0 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Defense and a ball-control offense keyed the victory as Kennesaw State held Gardner-Webb to 200 total yards (66 after three quarters) and the Owls consumed over 38 minutes of the clock.
White engineered an offense that amassed 353 total yards, 170 of which came way of his running and established a single-game team high. He also threw for 114 yards, including a big 39-yard pass to wide receiver Justin Sumpter late in the fourth quarter that set up the Owls’ final field goal.
Kennesaw State had 10 drives in the game, four of which included 10 or more plays, including a 19-play, 83-yard drive and took 10:56 off the clock. The Owls held the ball for more than 12 minutes in the third quarter.
Junior safety Derrick Farrow led the Kennesaw State defense with seven solo tackles, while linebackers Dez Billingslea and Izzy Sam recorded sacks.
Next Game: The Owls will play their first Big South Conference road game next Saturday (Oct. 24) when they travel to Lynchburg, Va. to visit nationally-ranked Liberty at Williams Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised live on Atlanta’s CW69.
Hall of Fame Inductions: The Kennesaw State Department of Athletics added to its Hall of Fame after holding a pre-game brunch to induct Dr. Thomas Keene and the 1995 NCAA Division II national championship team.
Dr. Keene served as a professor and chair at Kennesaw State for more than 40 years, including nine as chair of the Kennesaw State Athletics board. He also served as a leader in KSU’s transition from Division II to Division I and was instrumental in establishing the strong supporting relationship between academics and athletics at Kennesaw State.
In its first season competing at the NCAA Division II level, the Kennesaw State softball team made an immediate impact by posting an impressive 53-5 record and claiming a national championship. It was the first of back-to-back national title seasons for the Owls, who were led by NCAA Division II Coach of the Year Scott Whitlock.
* Kennesaw State held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter for the fourth time in six games. The Owls have allowed a total of 10 points in first quarter this season.
* Saturday marked the first time this season that it has held an opponent scoreless in the first half.
* The Owls’ defense has recorded at least one turnover in all six of its games this season.
* Gardner-Webb was held to just two first downs in the first half and 11 for the game.
* KSU has held five of its six opponents to 160 or fewer rushing yards.
* The Owls have held five of their six opponents to under 20 points.
* Kennesaw State has held a halftime lead in five of its six games.
* The Owls’ 6-0 halftime lead marked the second time this season that they have held an opponent scoreless in the first half. KSU also held kept blanked Edward Waters off the scoreboard in the first half on Sept. 12.
* Kennesaw State had an impressive nine-minute time of possession advantage in the first half. The Owls held the ball for 19:30 while the Runnin’ Bulldogs had possession for 10:30.
* The QB sack of Trey White on the Owls’ first possession of the second half marked the first of the season allowed by the Owls. KSU was the last team at the FCS level to surrender a QB sack.
* Kennesaw State had its five-game streak of scoring on its possession of the game snapped by Gardner-Webb.
* Redshirt-freshman and backup QB Jake McKenzie saw his first action of the season at running back and rushed 34 yards on 11 carries.
* Saturday marked the fourth time in six games that it has not allowed a 100-yard rusher.
Fifth Third Bank is the Official Bank of Kennesaw State Athletics. Fifth Third Bank Stadium is the home of women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse and football.
Keep up with Kennesaw State Athletics by following KSU on Twitter @KSUOwlNation and or by liking Kennesaw State Owls on Facebook. You also can follow Kennesaw State football at @KennesawSTFB and The Owls fund on Twitter at @TheOwlsFund.