By Al Barba
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s note: This article is courtesy of www.ksuowls.com.
CLINTON, S.C. — Despite a 14-6 loss at Big South Conference opponent Presbyterian on Saturday, the inaugural season for Kennesaw State can be termed a success.
Although the Owls (6-5, 2-4) suffered a setback in their season finale, head coach Brian Bohannon‘s team became just the third Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program since 2008 to post a winning season in its debut year.
Kennesaw State entered Saturday’s game against the Blue Hose (2-9, 1-5) with a chance to finish third in the Big South Conference. However, three first-half turnovers proved too much to overcome despite outgaining Presbyterian 351-187.
Two first-quarter fumbles, including one inside the Presbyterian 10-yard line kept the Owls from taking an early lead.
The Blue Hose took advantage of the second turnover (a Trey White Fumble), driving 92 yards in four plays and scoring on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Ben Cheek to tight end Riley Hilton with 14:17 remaining in the second quarter. The big play on the drive was an 84-yard run by Darrell Bridges.
It marked a pivotal point in the game as the Owls were set to strike first after Dante Blackmon intercepted a pass that gave Kennesaw State possession of the ball at the Presbyterian 21-yard line. The drive opened with an 11-yard run by Ryan Godhigh before White was hit and fumbled following on a 3-yard rush.
On the Blue Hose first play of the drive, Bridges raced 84 yards the Owls’ 18-yard line and personal foul by KSU moved the ball inside the 10-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Cheek and Hilton connected for the game’s first score.
Kennesaw State was finally able to put points on the board when Justin Thompson kicked a 26-yard field goal with 5:29 remaining in the first half.
The score remained 7-3 until early in the fourth quarter when Presbyterian took advantage of a late-hit penalty against Kennesaw State following a third-down play that kept its drive alive and culminated with a 7-yard touchdown run by Daryl Wilson with 13:15 left in the fourth quarter.
The Owls made it a one possession game on a 33-yard field goal by Thompson with 3:40 remaining and had one final chance to potentially tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion.
Taking over at its own 20-yard line, Kennesaw State drove down to the Presbyterian 37-yard line with 54 seconds remaining. However, the drive stalled there following four straight incomplete passes. The Owls just missed a touchdown when Jake McKenzie connected with Tremayne Trawick deep down the left sideline, but the Owls’ receiver caught the ball out of bounds.
“I told our guys that I’ve never had more fun coaching football in my 20-year whatever career than I’ve had this year,” said KSU coach Brian Bohannon. “I told them this before the game. I’ve enjoyed every minute. I love these kids. They’re awesome and a great group of kids who bought into a vision and a plan. They fight, compete and play hard. I’m pleased where we are. The season is bright for Kennesaw State football.”
A LOOK AHEAD: The Owls will open spring practice on Feb. 29 and will hold their second Black and Gold Game on Mar. 26 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Home: Sept. 3, East Tennessee State; Sept. 10, Point; Oct. 8, Missouri S&T; Oct. 15, Presbyterian; Oct. 29, Liberty; Nov. 5, Clark-Atlanta.
Away: Sept. 24: at Duquesne; Oct. 1, at Furman; Oct. 22, at Charleston Southern; Nov. 12, at Gardner-Webb; Nov. 19, at Monmouth.
* Kennesaw State tied Gardner-Webb for fifth in the Big South Conference.
* The Owls wore the all-white uniform combination for the second time this season. The previous occurrence came Oct. 24 at Liberty.
* Wide receiver Justin Sumpter, safety Taylor Henkle and safety Derrick Farrow served as game captains
* Kennesaw State loss the coin toss for only the third time in 11 games.
* KSU forced at least one turnover for the 10th time in 11 games when Dante Blackmon intercepted a first-quarter pass.
* Kennesaw State committed a season-high four turnovers (2 fumbles, 2 interceptions).
* Saturday marked the final collegiate game for seniors Brett Gillespie, Ryan Godhigh, Mason Harris and Prentice Stone.
* Redshirt junior quarterback Trey White rushed 155 yards on 31 carries and just fell short of becoming the first player in Big South Conference history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards. In 10 games, White passed for 1,059 yards and rushed for 964, falling 36 yards short of the 1,000-yard mark.
* Redshirt freshman WR Justin Sumpter led the Owls in receiving, catching 26 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 20.2 yards per reception.
* Redshirt freshman Taylor Henkle led KSU with four interceptions, 65 tackles, four pass breakups and eight passes defensed.
* Redshirt sophomore linebacker Izzy Sam led Kennesaw State with 4.5 sacks for 36 yards.
* Senior rush end Mason Harris topped the Owls with 12 tackles for loss totaling 59 yards.
* Junior safety Derrick Farrow passed KSU with four forced fumbles and finished second on the team with 63 tackles.
* Kennesaw State held Presbyterian to 187 total yards, marking the second-lowest total allowed to an opponent this season. The lowest total is 162 surrendered to Shorter on Sept. 19.
* Kennesaw State amassed 350 or more yards 10 times in 11 games.