Kent State win streak ends in 34-16 loss to Temple
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Kent State coach Darrell Hazell had been preaching since the beginning of the season about being perfect in November. For the first three weeks of the month, the Golden Flashes were exactly that, taking a four-game winning streak into their Mid-American Conference game against Temple Friday at Lincoln Financial Field.
But Kent State couldn't stop Temple's ground game and Bernard Pierce, and any hopes of becoming a bowl-eligible team were dashed in a 34-16 loss.
Kent State ended its season 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the MAC, while Temple improved to 8-4 and 5-3 in the MAC.
"It hurts, because we were so close to being bowl-eligible, and it would have allowed these seniors to play one more game," Hazell said. "We did some great things this year, and these seniors might not realize it now, but two weeks ago we were playing for the chance to win the conference, and this came when we were 1-6. These kids turned this around and made it possible to be playing in a game that had meaning in November."
Pierce led Temple with a season-best 189 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 24 carries. Much of that was accomplished in the second half, when Pierce exploded for 167 yards on 17 carries, averaging 9.8 yards a carry, and scoring all three touchdowns.
Pierce broke open what had been a close game with touchdown runs of 18, 25 and 69 yards.
"The first half we stopped the run and were in our gaps and tackled well, which opened up the pass (defense)," Kent State defensive end Jake Dooley said. "We knew they were a physical team and that we were going to have to stand our own ground. We saw Pierce is a great running back and so many times he goes in there and then bounces it back out, and we just didn't contain him. I think that had a lot to do with their success."
Kent State junior middle linebacker Luke Batton was all over the field. He made a team-high 12 tackles, while quarterback Spencer Keith threw for 260 yards and a touchdown, completing 24 of 40 attempts.
"We were in it most of this game, we just didn't make enough big plays when we had to," Hazell said. "There were a couple of times we missed assignments and there were a few missed tackles and those kind of add up."
Temple took a 10-6 lead into intermission, but it was a topsy-turvy half for the Owls. On Temple's third play, the Owls lost starting quarterback Chris Coyer, a sophomore who'd led Temple to two straight victories and had shown a strong grasp of the offense. Coyer had picked up 17 yards on a third-down playbefore leaving for the locker room for X-rays.
The left-handed Coyer appeared on the sideline later in the first quarter with his jersey off and his left arm in a sling and an ice bag draped over his left shoulder. Coyer was first replaced by junior Mike Gerardi for a series, then the rest of the half by senior Chester Stewart.
Early in the second quarter, Kent State took a 6-0 lead, taking advantage of the first of Stewart's two lost first-half fumbles at Temple's 16. The Golden Flashes needed only three plays for Jacquise Terry to bounce outside and score on an 11-yard run with 14:50 left in the first half. Temple got some help when Kee-ayre Griffin came knifing through to block the extra point.
Temple responded on the ensuing kickoff when Matt Brown picked up the ball in the end zone and scored untouched on a 100-yard kickoff return. It was the second 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Temple history.
Temple added a 33-yard Brandon McManus field goal with 5 seconds left in the half for a 10-6 lead.
After the game, Coyer's status was questionable whether or not he would be ready to play in a bowl game. Coyer said he was diagnosed with a sprained left shoulder and said he would be able to return in a few weeks.
Updated November 25, 2011