Kent State freshman quarterback Giorgio Morgan threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns in his collegiate debut, but the Golden Flashes' league-leading defense couldn't keep up with the Mid-American Conference's second-best offense as Central Michigan rolled to a 41-32 victory in front of 6,439 at Dix Stadium.
The Chippewas (5-4, 4-0 in the MAC) racked up 411 of its 580 yards of offense in the first half as they jumped out to a 31-19 lead at the break. CMU scored four straight touchdowns and a field goal on its first five possessions of the first half.
"With the exception of Kentucky, that was the best offensive team we played all year," said Kent State head coach Doug Martin. "We certainly had our hands full stopping them in the first half but I thought we played better in the second half."
Kent State (3-6, 1-4) allowed just 169 yards and 10 points in the final two quarters, but by then the damage had been done.
Morgan, who completed 18 of 28 passes did his best to keep the Golden Flashes in the game. After the Chippewas took the opening kickoff 54 yards—capped by a Justin Hoskins seven yard touchdown run, Morgan led the Kent State offense on a six play, 26 yard drive that ended with a Nate Reed 47-yard field goal to cut CMU's lead to 7-3 with 9:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Central Michigan quickly increased its lead to 14-3 when sophomore quarterback Dan LeFevour—who completed 33 of 43 passes for 359 yards and three scores—found Antonio Brown open in the middle of the field for a 31-yard touchdown strike.
Brown again led the Golden Flashes on a scoring drive. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder found sophomore Phil Garner for a 22-yard gain on first down from the Kent State 34 and Eugene Jarvis carried for 12 of his game-high 156 rushing yards to set the Golden Flashes up first and 10 at the Central Michigan 32-yard line. Four plays later Reed connected on a 52-yard field goal—a career and school record—to pull to within 14-6.
LeFevour threw his second touchdown pass of the game on the next drive—a 33-yarder—to Bryan Anderson—and the Chippewas led 21-6 with 2:43 left in the first quarter.
Kent State responded. Freshman Andre Flowers ran for 33 yards on first down and Morgan found classmate Jon Simpson for a seven yard completion—the first of Simpson's career. Two plays later Morgan hit Flowers at the CMU two-yard line where he spun into the end zone to score the first touchdown of the duo's young careers.
Morgan later would throw two more touchdown passes—a 23-yarder to Garner and a 33-yarder to Shawn Bayes.
"I felt real good," said Morgan of the first touchdown pass of his career. "I was very excited inside but I didn't want to show that much; I wanted to be poised and humble."
That poise showed throughout the game. Despite being sacked five times, Morgan made play after play and worked within the offensive game plan. More importantly, he led the Kent State offense to its first turnover-free performance of the season.
"I thought he exceeded everyone's expectations," Martin said. "To go out against last year's conference champions and not have any turnovers is huge. I'm not ready to call Canton, Ohio yet—he's played just one game."
Central Michigan added another LeFevour touchdown pass and a Andrew Aguila 25-yard field goal sandwiched around Flowers' touchdown reception to take a 31-19 lead into halftime.
Hoskins added a four-yard run to start the third quarter and Aguila booted a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring for Central Michigan. Bayes caught his touchdown pass in the third quarter and Jarvis added a 14-yard run in the third, but Kent State's hopes of notching a come-from-behind victory ended when the Chippewas didn't allow a score in the fourth quarter.
Kent State has an off week before traveling to Northern Illinois on Nov. 10.
Central Michigan (5-4)
Central Michigan: JUSTIN HOSKINS 7 YD RUN (ANDREW AGUILA KICK)
Kent: NATE REED 47 YD FG
Central Michigan: ANTONIO BROWN 31 YD PASS FROM DAN LEFEVOUR (ANDREW AGUILA KICK)
Kent: NATE REED 52 YD FG
Central Michigan: BRYAN ANDERSON 33 YD PASS FROM DAN LEFEVOUR (ANDREW AGUILA KICK)
Kent: ANDRE FLOWERS 22 YD PASS FROM GIORGIO MORGAN (NATE REED KICK)
Central Michigan: JOE BOCKHEIM 23 YD PASS FROM DAN LEFEVOUR (ANDREW AGUILA KICK)
Kent: PHIL GARNER 23 YD PASS FROM GIORGIO MORGAN (BLOCKED XP)
Central Michigan: ANDREW AGUILA 25 YD FG
Central Michigan: JUSTIN HOSKINS 4 YD RUN (ANDREW AGUILA KICK)
Kent: SHAWN BAYES 33 YD PASS FROM GIORGIO MORGAN (NATE REED KICK)