Owls’ defense playing with confidence after shutout

Kennesaw State’s defense was questioned for its inexperience as the season began in August. Three months later, the unit proved that despite losing several key starters, it’s still capable of competing for back-to-back Big South championships.

In the Owls’ 49-point shutout against Campbell on Saturday, Kennesaw State limited Campbell to a season-low of 129 yards. With two drives which ended in punts, the Camels recorded 69 yards in the first quarter, but could never build any more momentum on offense as the game progresses, totaling 11, 24 and 34 yards respectively over the next three quarters.

“I feel like we played great assignment football,” linebacker Anthony Gore Jr. said. “I feel like coach put in a great plan, we executed that plan. We got a few bumps and bruises throughout the game, that’s going to happen in football, but I think we played great assignment football.”

In Kennesaw State’s second shutout win of the season, Campbell totaled 46 passing yards and 92 rushing yards in the win— crossing midfield twice and never venturing past the Owls’ 38-yard line.

Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said at his weekly news conference Tuesday his defense was so restrictive against Campbell because it has been playing with “a chip on (its) shoulder” as the potential of a playoff run draws nearer.

“I think it’s just that time of year, you know what I mean? They understand it. We’ve had kids that have been (to the playoffs and) they understand where we are and what we’re trying to accomplish. You get to this time of year and to me, it’s like playoff season. You got to get ready, you got to go take care of business and play your very best game and don’t worry about anything else but that,” Bohannon said.

While Bohannon knows his team is excited about the possibility of playing in the FCS playoffs for the second-straight year, the team must focus on finishing the regular season. If Kennesaw State defeats Monmouth on Saturday, it will secure the Big South title and an automatic bid to the playoffs.

Last season, Kennesaw State allowed the one-loss Monmouth team 358 total yards, 212 passing, in the Owls’ 52-21 win. Kennesaw State forced five fumbles, three recovered by the Owls, and caught two interceptions in the lopsided win. 

With many of the same players from last year’s game returning to the field Saturday at Monmouth’s Kessler Stadium, Bohannon was complimentary of every position group on offense.

“They’re just so balanced in what they do,” Bohannon said. “They can run the ball, they can throw the ball and he has the ability to make plays when things break down with his legs and honestly, their offensive line is as good as we’ve run across. They’re big, physical.”

One of those returners is quarterback Kenji Bahar, who has thrown for 2,135 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, totaling a 59.3 completion percentage. Keeping with Monmouth’s balanced attack, Bahar also also totals 103 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Under Bahar, Monmouth (7-2) is on a five-game win steak, with the past three wins against conference opponents. The Hawks are reliable in the red zone, scoring on 83 percent of their trips to the red zone and touchdowns on 61 percent of their trips.

“He’s a good player,” defensive back Dorian Walker said. “Our team, we’re just going to play as a team and go in and handle our business that way. Not singling anyone out, we’re just going to go in there as a team and do what we always do.”

Kennesaw State and Monmouth kick off Saturday at noon and can be viewed online on ESPN-plus.

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