BOWLING GREEN — Receiver Chris Gallon, part of a much maligned Bowling Green passing attack, had 207 yards and two touchdowns.
Kent State running back Dri Archer, going against a BG defense that had held six straight opposing teams, let alone individuals, to under 100 yards rushing, had 211 yards and a pair of TDs.
There were 14 minutes yet to play. The score was 24-24. Six touchdowns had been scored and four, all by Gallon and Archer, came on plays of 70 or more yards.
If a championship game is about valiant efforts and jaw-dropping plays and picking yourself off the carpet and leaving every ounce of energy on the field, then the BG-Kent State battle for MAC East Division supremacy didn’t lack much Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium.
The Falcons, however, lacked the finishing kick or, in this case, the finishing passes.
Kent State won its ninth straight game and snapped BG’s winning streak at six in a 31-24 decision that sends the No. 25-ranked Flashes to the MAC championship game against Northern Illinois on Nov. 30.
Through 10 games, the Falcons defense had allowed averages of 103.7 yards per game and 3.3 yards per rush. BG had been even stingier over the past six games. But Archer, a 5-foot-8, 175-pounder, finished with 241 yards on 17 carries, an average of 14.2 per attempt that had folks reaching for the record books.
“He made our guys miss, just like he makes everybody miss,” BG coach Dave Clawson said of Archer.
Archer’s final TD, one that gave the Flashes a 24-17 lead, was absolutely silly.
He took off on a sweep to the left, shook off an arm tackle by Ryland Ward, tiptoed the sideline into BG territory, and was smothered from behind by Ted Oullett. But he wasn’t tackled and before any of the 16,002 fans at The Doyt could register what they were seeing, Archer was loose running across the field, then cutting hard left and streaking toward the end zone to complete a 74-yard play.
“The guy got me, but I ducked under,” Archer said. “He flew over me and it was a big cluster and I fought my way back out.”
Gallon was watching from BG’s sideline.
“I saw him make a couple plays,” said the BG red-shirt freshman, who already had a 72-yard TD reception. “I felt I had to respond.”
So he did, stepping into the end zone exactly 20 seconds later. Gallon leaped at the left sideline to haul in a high, deep spiral from Matt Schilz, regained his balance, spun around a defender, and sprinted to complete the 81-yard play.
“I hit Chris between the corner and the safety and he made a guy miss,” said Schilz, who passed for a season-high 355 yards, equal to his last three games combined. “It has been frustrating for us not getting into a rhythm every week. We’ve been criticized a lot for not making plays. The receivers made them today. I’m very proud of those guys.”
Still, as Schilz said, Kent made one or two more plays.
After forcing a KSU punt at about the 10-minute mark, Schilz immediately had a pass over the middle tipped by Flash defensive star Roosevelt Nix and picked off by a diving Richard Gray. It set the visitors up just 20 yards from the end zone and soon it was 31-24, Kent.
BG had two more chances, but came up short deep in Kent territory on both occasions, a Flash blitz snuffing out one fourth-down play from the 17 yard line and an interception in the end zone ending the other with 21 seconds left on another fourth down from the same 17 yard line.
“We’re not happy with the result, but in terms of the effort I couldn’t be more proud,” Clawson said. “It was a championship game and both teams had championship effort and desire.”
A BG defense that supposedly couldn’t be run on was instead trampled by Kent for 334 net rushing yards. A BG passing game that had been AWOL most all season produced big numbers and big plays.
Sometimes, championship games produce surprises.
Schilz has been saying for weeks that he was content with BG running the ball and winning. He wished he could say it again.
“Of course,” he said. “It’s all about winning. It’s how we’re measured.”
And the Flashes will be the ones getting measured for championship rings.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.