Running back Jake McKenzie scores Kennesaw State's third touchdown against Clark Atlanta, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (Cory hancock for the AJC)
Photo: Cory Hancock
Photo: Cory Hancock

Last trip to Charleston Southern ‘not a very fond memory’ for Kennesaw State

Kennesaw State’s contests against Charleston Southern over the past two seasons have been lopsided.

In 2016, the last time the Owls traveled to North Charleston, S.C., Kennesaw State’s high-scoring offense was limited to seven points as the Buccaneers won 28-7 in front of their home crowd.

Two years later, Kennesaw State running back Jake McKenzie, who rushed for a team-high of 52 yards in the 2016 matchup, still struggled to find words that adequately described the loss.

“We didn’t play very hard,” McKenzie said. “Going back and watching the game from that year is kind of tough to watch because of how badly we executed stuff. It’s not a very fond memory of any of ours at Kennesaw State.”

The Owls totaled 270 total yards, 172 rushing, and had four turnovers in the loss.

Last season, the Buccaneers traveled to Fifth Third Bank Stadium, and the Owls had their revenge. Kennesaw State rushed for 343 yards and running back Darnell Holland scored three of the Owls’ five rushing touchdowns in the 38-0 win.

McKenzie, a senior from Monroeville, Ala., said the transformation of how the Owls played their Big South rival in one year, especially on offense, was because of improved execution.

“We executed well,” McKenzie said of last year’s matchup. “We had some big plays, and they jolted us and gave us some energy and momentum, but we just kind of rode that through the game. We just played a whole lot better and a lot harder.”

The Buccaneers are 3-3 this season and have won their only conference game, but despite their .500 record, McKenzie is expecting Saturday’s matchup ,to be the best game Charleston Southern has played this season.

The Owls (6-1, 2-0) are on a six-game win streak, have outscored FCS opponents 317-63 and average 48.1 points and 377 rushing yards entering Saturday.

Kennesaw State is a 17.5-point favorite in their first game coming off their bye week, but McKenzie is practicing this week with the mindset that the Kennesaw State offense still isn’t playing up to its standard.

“As an offense, I still don’t think we’ve played our best game yet. I think we’ve gotten closer to each week. We’re trying to put together the best full game we can,” McKenzie said. “We’re trying to get to an elite level and hopefully that’s where we can get this weekend.”

Kennesaw State and Charleston Southern kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday at North Charleston’s Buccaneer Field and can be viewed online on ESPN-plus.

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