Kennesaw State uses first-round bye to recover after 5-OT win

Kennesaw State's Le'Vonte Larry blocks a pass for Jacksonville State at SunTrust Park, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Atlanta. Kennesaw won in overtime, 60-52. (Annie Rice/AJC)
Kennesaw State's Le'Vonte Larry blocks a pass for Jacksonville State at SunTrust Park, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Atlanta. Kennesaw won in overtime, 60-52. (Annie Rice/AJC)

Credit: Annie Rice

Credit: Annie Rice

After playing a full game and five overtime periods Saturday against Jacksonville State at SunTrust Park, Kennesaw State earned a much deserved bye week entering the FCS playoffs.

Kennesaw State earned the No. 4 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage for the second round in this year’s playoff. In its fourth season as a program, the Owls will host a second-round playoff game against either Wofford or Elon on Dec. 1 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

After the Kennesaw State’s 60-52 win over Jacksonville State, coach Brian Bohannon said his team was planning to use the bye week to practice, but also to recuperate before beginning specific preparation for their opponent, which will be determined Saturday when Elon plays at Wofford at 2 p.m.

“That was a tough, hard-nosed, long, physical football game. so the bye is huge, huge,” Bohannon said after the win. “We have three practices scheduled next week. What we do with those will be based on what we need to do to get ourselves ready for the following week.”

After leading the Owls to back-to-back 10-win seasons, Bohannon was one of 15 coaches named finalists Monday for the STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award given annually to honor the FCS coach of the year.

Last season, the Owls also clinched a playoff spot, the first in program history, but the team was not seeded high enough for a first-round bye or home-field advantage. Kennesaw State traveled to play Sam Houston State last November and lost 34-27.

To recuperate from Saturday’s long, draining game and prepare for the intensity of the postseason, the Owls took Sunday and Monday off and returned to practice Tuesday.

Kennesaw State’s defense especially needed time to rest after Saturday’s game which, according to Bohannon, visibly exhausted both teams’ defenses during the overtime periods.

Considering the intensity of Saturday’s game and how the Owls were required to dive straight into the postseason last year, linebacker Anthony Gore Jr. couldn’t overstate the importance of the bye week.

“After any game, your body is going to be sore but (after Saturday’s) game, I kind of struggled a lot more the next day,” Gore said Tuesday. “But getting Sunday and Monday off really helped me recover and just get my body back moving today at practice it helped even more. I think will be more than ready to get back and ready to win.”

Gore finished the Owls’ win over Jacksonville State with team highs in total tackles (9) and sacks (2).

While Saturday’s game was long and grueling for the defense, Burks said he liked what he saw from the Owls’ offense during overtime.

While the usually high-scoring Kennesaw State offense — which averaged 47.5 points entering Saturday’s game — was limited to three touchdowns in regulation, Burks said all 11 players were clicking during the overtime periods.

“The biggest takeaway from overtime is it was a different offense out there from the four quarters that we produced in the beginning,” Burks said. “After watching the film, that’s something we want to be able to build off of and coming out to practice (Tuesday), guys are flying around. We’re excited about the opportunity.”

Burks, who broke the all-time FCS single-season rushing touchdown record (29) during Saturday’s game, totaled 95 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and threw for 74 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.