KENT: Kent State coach Darrell Hazell finally took the reins off running back Dri Archer and also dusted off a trick play featuring defensive lineman Nate Terhune, and each move paid big dividends in the Golden Flashes’ 31-24 victory over host Bowling Green on Saturday.
For a majority of the season, Hazell has been careful with the kind of load he’s placed on Archer, taking pains to not overuse the 5-foot-8, 175-pound junior. But before Saturday’s game, Hazell pulled Archer aside to let him know he might carry the load against the Falcons.
Archer was happy to take advantage of the increased playing time, turning 17 carries into a career-best 241 yards to help the Flashes clinch their first Mid-American Conference division title. It was an effort that included a 79-yard second-quarter touchdown and a 74-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that received plenty of national attention.
“I told him, ‘I don’t care how many times you have to carry it, you just have to go today,’ ” said Hazell, who was named one of 16 semifinalists for National Coach of the Year. “ ‘You have to be great and we need your best in the fourth quarter.’ ”
Archer did, showcasing his sprinter speed on the second touchdown that quickly made its way around the Internet and was replayed on several sports shows.
Even ESPN picked up the clip, and Archer earned his second helmet sticker of the season from KSU alumnus Lou Holtz for his efforts in the historic win. Kent State (10-1, 7-0) increased its program-best winning streak to nine games and moved up from No. 25 to No. 23 in this week’s AP poll.
On the second touchdown run, Archer raced down the left sideline and appeared to be stopped by a gang of Falcon tacklers. But he ducked the tackles near midfield, reversed his field, picked up key blocks from receiver Eric Adeyemi and quarterback Spencer Keith and split two more BG defenders to give the Flashes a 24-17 lead.
“They were bringing a blitz on the right side and Spencer had a great check on a zone read,” said Archer, who was named the Mid-American Conference East Division Player of the Week on Monday.
“The linebacker stepped up in the hole and I just gave him a quick move and broke outside. Then I saw Eric Adeyemi blocking the corner on the outside, so I ran to his side.
‘‘Then someone jumped on my back, but he just flipped over my back and I realized I was still up. So I just cut across the field, saw Spencer and he was my lead blocker to the end zone.”
Even as he’s relived the play in his head several times since it actually happened, the humble Archer admits thinking: “Wow, that really happened? I mean, it catches me off guard sometimes, the things I do.”
On the Flashes’ second possession of the game, Terhune rumbled 31 yards on a fake punt. It was a trick play the Flashes had worked on since spring practice, but hadn’t used in the first 10 games of the season.
“I played offensive tackle in high school, so that was the first time I carried the ball in my football career,” Terhune said. “I hadn’t gotten to run with the ball in a long time, so it was pretty exciting. I felt like Dri — for like five seconds.”
Said Hazell: “The element of surprise in football is as big as anything. Do they expect us to snap the ball to [Terhune]? Absolutely not. But we had been working that play since Day Three in camp. Then you go 11 games into the season before you use it, then it works exactly as you draw it up.”
Kent State hadn’t used the play before simply because the perfect situation hadn’t presented itself.
“You want to call it back in your territory so they’re not in safe punt,” Hazell said. “But you also want to call it when you’re eight-plus — eight to 15 yards — because you don’t know how far he can run with it. … we got a little chuckle out of it yesterday watching it on film as a team because Nate did not look like Dri.”
The Flashes hope to wrap up a perfect league record with a win over visiting Ohio at 11 a.m. on Senior Day on Friday. Regardless of the outcome, KSU is set to meet Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field on Nov. 30.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.