Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell's work of re-establishing the offensive line over the bye week garnered him and the Flashes their first Mid-American Conference win of the season.
Hazell credits the 27-15 win over Bowling Green to the offensive line's ability to open running lanes. The wide running lanes then open the passing game.
"You have no idea how easy it is to throw the ball when you can run the football," Hazell said. "If you can get three or four yards on first down in the running game, it creates so many opportunities in the passing game. I think being able to run the back gets them to crowd the line of scrimmage a little more that creates bigger seams in the secondary."
The Flashes ran for a total of 140 yards on 36 carries. Freshman running back Trayion Durham, who led the team in carries with 19 carries for 62 yards, said he could not believe some of the holes he was seeing.
"It was unreal," Durham said. "I was like, 'Is this really happening right now?' I took two stutter steps and it was open so I ran as hard as I could."
The offensive line also held strong while protecting junior quarterback Spencer Keith, giving him enough time to sit in the pocket and wait for routes to develop. In the past two games, the Flashes' quarterbacks have been sacked 12 times. Saturday, Keith was never taken down for a sack. The last time Kent State did not allow a sack was Sept. 24 against South Alabama, which was also the last game Kent State won.
After a fumbling and turning the ball over on his own 23-yard line, Keith maintained his composure and went on to finish 16 for 23 for 179 and one touchdown.
"I almost killed him after that fumble," Hazell laughed. "I thought he managed our team well and really came back well after that play and made some good throws for us and kept us on the field."
Junior offensive lineman Brian Winters said this was the game and the result the team-and especially the offensive line-was looking for.
"We made adjustments as far as the offensive line and what we had to do to succeed," Winters said. "Obviously it worked. We worked together and the guards were changed but we didn't blink. We kept working hard and doing what we had to do."
The defense also played a pivotal role in the game. Though they allowed 400 yards passing, the Flashes' defense made key stops when needed.
Late in the third quarter with the score 20-15, the Falcons drove down the field to Kent State's 1-yard line. Looking towards the left pylon, Bowling Green's Matt Schilz threw to his receiver. Sophomore safety Luke Wollet dove in front and gave Hazell the interception he promised him at halftime.
"Kansas State ran that same route against me, so I kind of had an idea where they were split up," Wollet said. "I just tried to make a play on third down."
The long yardage resulting in no scores is what infuriated Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson.
"We had the ball six times on their side of the 50," Clawson said. "We got zero touchdowns out of it. We threw an interception on the 1-yard line, we fumbled a punt inside the 10, we didn't tackle well on defense, we kicked the ball out of bounds on kickoffs, we missed two field goals. I knew going into it that Kent State was better than their record."
After their first win in conference play and improving their overall record to 2-6, Hazell said the Flashes have more confidence and fight to continue playing.
"Every game going forward is going to be hard," Hazell said. "We know that. But there's a lot at stake and we need to approach it that way. We're fired up for this football team, and we'll come back to work tomorrow."
Kent State's next game is against Central Michigan. The Flashes will host the 3-6 Chippewas in a Friday night game. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.