Kennesaw State had its four-game winning streak snapped Saturday when Liberty came to Fifth Third Bank Stadium and spoiled Homecoming, knocking off the Owls 36-21.
This marks the second straight year that KSU (4-2, 0-1 Big South) was handed it second loss of the year and first conference loss of the year by Liberty (3-3, 1-0).
1. Two quarterbacks got playing time for KSU
Going into the game, coach Brian Bohannon was welcoming to the idea of having three quarterbacks on his roster who had all won games for the Owls. Saturday, he tried a combination of Chandler Burks and Daniel David, but the duo was unable to bring home the victory.
Burks did a bulk of the work for KSU, going 11-of-19 for 141 yards and rushing 28 times 98 yards. David went just 1-of-4, but he had the team’s longest completion on the night, a 35-yard connection with wide receiver Xavier Harper, which could have gone for more.
“Daniel has the strongest arm of the three quarterbacks, and we put him in, he has him wide open, and he under threw it,” Bohannon said. “It is what it is. You’re bringing in a cold quarterback off the bench.”
2. The Owls failed to convert in the red zone
On four separate occasions KSU was able to get inside the Liberty 20-yard line, but on three of those trips, the Owls walked away empty-handed. KSU missed a field goal in the first quarter after getting to the Liberty 10, and turned the ball over on downs after getting stuffed at the goal line at the start of the fourth quarter and in the game’s final minute. The Owls also turned the ball over on downs early in the second quarter after reaching the Flames’ 25-yard line.
“As an offense (the goal line plays) is something we got to work on as a unit,” quarterback Chandler Burks said. “They were more efficient once we got in the red zone.”
3. Liberty kept the KSU defense guessing
The Flames gained 414 yards, and their balance on offensive was key as they were able to find consistent success in the air and on the ground, getting 211 passing yards and 203 rushing yards.
“It’s an 11-man game, as long as everyone is doing their job we shouldn’t have a problem, we just had a lot of miscues,” linebacker Anthony Gore, Jr. said.
4. Liberty dominated special teams
Despite an early fumbled punt, the Flames took care of business on special teams. Alex Probert nailed a 50-yard field goal and two 47-yard attempts for Liberty, and KSU kicker Justin Thompson missed a 26-yarder, which Bohannon said was the reason he went for it on the failed fourth down attempt in the second quarter. Running back Frankie Hickson also had a 99-yard kickoff return for the Flames’ first points of the game, the first kickoff return for a touchdown the Owls have ever allowed.
“The three field goal were huge for them,” Bohannon said. “It kept them ahead of the curve for a little bit. … It wasn’t everything, but it sure played a big part, especially early on.”
5. Justin Sumpter did not play
Despite suiting up, KSU’s dynamic wide receiver stayed on the sideline for the night. Bohannon said he was fully healed from his sprained ankle that kept him out last week, but an abductor injury sustained during Thursday’s practice forced the coach to keep him out of action. Harper led the Owls’ air attack with five receptions and 88 yards.