Special by Cory Hancock
Photo: Cory Hancock
Photo: Cory Hancock

Kennesaw State a bit sluggish in victory Saturday

For a guy whose team had a 22-point halftime lead, Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon was not happy. He angrily walked off the field and into the locker room at halftime, obviously disappointed with the way his team had played – despite the big lead.

The Owls, ranked No. 7 in FCS, offered a measured response in the second half, but hung on to defeat Charleston Southern 45-23 to win their Big South Conference opener Saturday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. 

“I got after them at halftime,” Bohannon said. “We did not play well enough to do the things we needed to do here. Most of it is probably 99 percent self-inflicted.

“It starts with me. We’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to practice better, have more attention to detail. We’re not going to be able to survive doing that.”

The Owls defense, which ranked No. 1 in FCS in total defense (230.4 yards) surrendered 380 yards and allowed Charleston Southern to convert 10 of 20 third-down plays. And Kennesaw State was assessed 122 yards on 11 penalties, including a pair of roughness calls in the fourth quarter, one a targeting call that disqualified starting defensive tackle Travis Bell.

“I tell them we’ve got to control the controllable,” Bohannon said. ”The opponent is one thing, but let’s take care of ourselves. If we do our job and take care of the things we’re responsible for, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.

The Owls (5-1, 1-0 Big South) were able to move the ball. They rushed for 342 yards – Kennesaw State entered the game with a Division I-leading 369.8 yards per game. Quarterback Daniel David ran 18 times for 50 yards and three touchdowns and completed 4 of 7 passes for 93 yards. 

Bronson Rechsteiner carried 10 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Rechsteiner topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the second time this season, with Saturday’s total his best effort since running for a school-record 221 yards against Missouri State. Shaquil Terry added 56 yards, and Isaac Foster ran for 45 yards. 

“(Rechsteiner) is a game-changer,” Bohannon said. “We haven’t had one like him since we’ve been here. He gets the ball and he can go at any time. He’s continuing to embrace practice and challenging himself, and he’s reaping the rewards on Saturday, which is what you’re supposed to do.”

Kennesaw State scored on its first three possession, getting a 10-yard run from Andavius Grier, a 1-yard run by David and a 49-yard run by Rechsteiner. The Owls held Charleston Southern to a pair of field goals and tacked on another score when Rechsteiner got loose for 56-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left in the half, which they led 28-6.

Charleston Southern pulled within two scores in the second half after Kameron Brown caught a 3-yard pass from Jack Chambers, a sophomore from Parkview High. Chambers completed 20 of 45 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He was sacked twice. 

Kennesaw State was able to answer each Charleston Southern score with one of its own. Nathan Robertson kicked a 46-yard field goal, Daniel scored on a pair of keepers, one from the 6, the other from the 1, to maintain their distance.

“I think for the most part we did a good job on defense,” Bohannon said. “The quarterback presented some challenges when he scrambled and got outside the pocket. He does a good job finding guys down the field, and we’ve got to do a better job of coverage.

Kennesaw State improved to 4-1 in Big South openers and 5-0 when coming off a bye week. The Owls have won 12 consecutive Big South games, tied for the second-longest winning streak in conference history. Kennesaw State plays again at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Presbyterian.  

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