KENT, Ohio -- This one hurts.
Kent State 26, Kennesaw State 23 in overtime.
It hurts, and it should hurt, but it is something programs have to go through to understand how to win in the long run.
But that didn’t make it any easier for the players in the Owls’ locker room, moments after they watched the Golden Flashes storm the field after Matthew Trickett kicked a game-winning field goal and allowed the Kent State fan base to take a big sigh of relief.
“They are heartbroken right now,” Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said. “The biggest challenge now will be picking them up.
“Right now, they are in shock. In their minds, they were never going to lose.”
That’s a hard thing to say, considering it was a rare opportunity for a team from the Football Championship Subdivision to leave a Football Bowl Subdivision team’s home stadium with a win.
But for this squad, Bohannon means it.
Only this one feels different. Last year, Kennesaw State had Georgia State on the ropes and let the Panthers come back to win.
That one hurt, too, but it was a different kind of hurt. It was a senior-laden team that realized all its goals were still reachable.
That’s going to be a tougher sell this time around.
This Owls' roster has more than 40 freshmen on it. It is hard to predict how a youthful group will respond, especially when it had a 23-20 lead with 1:37 to play and could not shut the door.
However, if there is a silver lining, it may be some of the key teachable moments that happened to players who know how to respond to adversity.
In overtime, on second-and-10 from the Kent State 13, Daniel David was hit as he pitched the ball to Shaquil Terry. The ball was perilously sitting on Terry’s fingers, but he could not bring it in.
It was a play Terry had made hundreds of times. For some reason, this time, it did not happen.
“The pitch has to be caught,” hesaid. “It could have went a lot of different ways, but it was definitely a shaky moment. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to end.”
Former Mount Paran Christian School standout Dorian Walker was involved in three of the game’s defining plays.
After reading a quick pass in the flat perfectly, Walker broke on the ball and appeared to have an easy touchdown in front of him. The score would have given the Owls a 23-10 lead with 2 minutes to play in the third quarter.
The only issue was Walker did not catch the ball.
One play later, Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum connected with Isaiah McKoy on a 75-yard touchdown pass. It was a play where McKoy beat Walker 1-on-1 on a third-and-16 situation to give the Golden Flashes their first lead of the game at 17-16.
Early in the fourth quarter, Walker responded.
With 10:14 to play, Kent State running back Jo-El Shaw broke free. It appeared as if he would go for a 76-yard touchdown run, but Walker caught him from behind at the 20. The Golden Flashes had to settle for a field goal, and it set up the Owls’ late go-ahead touchdown drive.
“It’s all about finishing the game,” Walker said. “It’s really about the next play. You have to keep your head up and keep moving forward.”
Bohannon said there were many things the team did wrong Saturday. Missed opportunities, penalties and mistakes will be hard to watch when they turn of the film the next few days.
Was having a chance to earn the first win over an FBS program a big deal?
“You’re darn right it was,” Bohannon said.
The team did everything it could. It put itself in position to win, but the Owls just did not do it.
“They played hard,” Bohannon said about his team. “This football team won’t be defined by one game.”
Terry said the team is already looking forward to the rematch next season, with Kennesaw State set to return to Kent State in 2020. The young guys will have another year of experience by then. Unfortunately, Terry, a senior, will noy be able to come back and take care of the unfinished business.
What he can do is make sure the young players follow the 24-hour rule. After 24 hours, this game will be put in the rear-view mirror.
“They are all teaching moments,” Bohannon said.
This team will return to the weight room and training room Sunday and Monday. There is another game to be played next Saturday at Alabama State.
The players will have to have short memories, because, like last year after the Georgia State game, all the goals are still in front, but it may be understandable if this one lingers a little bit.
This one hurt.