KENNESAW — Kennesaw State, the winner of the last two Big South Conference championships, began its trek toward a third with a 45-23 win over Charleston Southern at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Saturday.

The victory extended its conference winning streak to 11. Kennesaw State’s last conference loss was to Charleston Southern in 2016.

“We’re 1-0 in the conference, which is a big piece of our goal,” Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said. “We talked about it before the game. If we want to do the things we want to do, the conference is how you get to that.”

The seventh-ranked Owls (5-1) punted on its opening possession, but two plays later Charlie Patrick intercepted a Jack Chambers pass over the middle and returned it to the 21 yard line. The Owls took the lead four plays later when Antavius Grier scored from 10 yards out.

Kennesaw State’s next drive was a 16-play, 72-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard run by quarterback Daniel David. The senior finished the game with 18 carries for 50 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed 4 of 7 passes for 93 yards.

The Owls struck quickly on their next drive, scoring in two plays on a 49-yard run up the middle by Bronson Rechsteiner.

Charleston Southern (1-5) responded with a pair of field goals from 49 and 50 yards but before the half. Rechsteiner scored on a dive play again, this time from 56 yards with less than 30 seconds on the clock, to put the Owls up 28-6 at the break.

“He’s a threat,” Bohannon said. “He’s a game changer now. We haven’t had one like him since we’ve been here. He can get the ball like our slots normally, he gets the ball and gets a crease, he can go at any time. That was a huge play.”

Rechsteiner, who set a team record with 221 yards rushing against Missouri State three weeks ago, had 137 yards and two touchdowns against Charleston Southern.

The Kennesaw State defense, which entered the game ranked first in FCS in yards allowed, limited the Buccaneers to only 120 yards of total offense in the first half. Charleston Southern ended the game with 380 total yards, but the Owls still see positives in the performance, including the three drives they forced to end in field goals instead of touchdowns.

“I felt like we had a good game plan going in,” said Bryson Armstrong, who had 12 tackles. “We executed it pretty well. First drive of the game you get a pick (by linebacker Charlie Patrick), that always helps. We of course have a few things to work on, but we tried our best to play the Owl way today.”

A 54-yard punt return by Garris Schwarting early in the third quarter set the Buccaneers up at the KSU 18 with their best scoring opportunity, and allowed them to get back into the game. A 3-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal cut the Kennesaw State lead to 15.

Kennesaw State answered with a field goal, a career-long 46 yarder by Nathan Robertson, but Schwarting had two big catches on Charleston Southern’s next drive, including a 40-yard touchdown grab against Armstrong in tight coverage to cut the lead back to 11 at 31-20.

David scored two more touchdowns to put the game comfortably out of reach, but Bohannon insisted that the performance was far from perfect.

The Owls were penalized 11 times for 122 yards. Several of those penalties allowed Charleston Southern to pick up key first downs in the second half, giving it scoring opportunities just when Kennesaw State seemed ready to put the game away.

“We did not play well enough to do the things we need to do here,” Bohannon said. “Most of it, I would say 99 percent of it was self inflicted. It starts with me. We’ve got to practice better, we’ve got to have more attention to detail. We’re just not going to be able to survive doing those things.”

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