Kennesaw State saw its season come to an end with a 45-38 loss at Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
Finishing 5-6, and 1-4 in the ASUN, marked the first losing season in program history, and again it was the defense that had the most issues.
Colonels’ quarterback Parker McKinney threw for 427 yards and five touchdowns as EKU shredded the Owls for 564 yards, the most KSU had ever given up in a single game. With the win, Eastern Kentucky (7-4, 3-2) secured the automatic bid into the FCS playoffs from the ASUN/WAC alliance and will host Big South champion Gardner-Webb in the opening round on next Saturday.
An 80-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game put the Colonels up 6-0 just 15 seconds into the game, but KSU came back on a pair of Jonathan Murphy touchdown runs to take a 14-9 lead.
EKU scored 21 unanswered points to build a 30-14 advantage, before KSU started to work its way back into the game. Isaac Foster, who closed his college career with 148 yards on 12 carries, pulled the Owls within 30-21 with a 43-yard touchdown run. Conor Cummins followed with a career-long and new program record 50-yard field goal to pull KSU within six, but that was as close as it would get.
The teams traded touchdowns twice over the end of the third and the fourth quarter. Murphy, who struggled throwing the ball in windy conditions, connected with Preston Daniels with a 19-yard touchdown pass to make it 38-31, and then with 3:09 to play, scored on his third rushing touchdown of the day to pull within 45-38.
Murphy, who was also playing his final game at KSU, finished the day 5 of 13 passing for 112 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 66 yards.
The Owls had their best rushing day of the season, as they rolled up 439 yards. Daniels finished with 71 yards, Yesiah Clemons had 64 and Gabriel Benyard added 59.
KSU had one final chance to either tie or win the game. After getting the ball back with 3:57 to play, the Owls moved 57 yards in 12 plays to the EKU 25. Along the way, Murphy converted on fourth-and-22 when he hit Chavis Marshall for 29 yards, but the drive ended with three straight incompletions, and on fourth down, Murphy was sacked to end the game.