Along with a couple of failed fourth-down conversions, the defense raced to a 22-3 advantage.
Kennesaw State’s offense struggled with unforced errors throughout, including several mishandled snaps and a missed field-goal attempt from freshman kicker Conor Cummins. But the pass rush and run defense did its part making life uncomfortable, stuffing the offense’s option plays on the perimeter and sending constant pressure at whoever was under center. Though sacks were not a defensive scoring play, the pass rush impressed with six and 13 tackles for a loss.
The offense had its strongest effort in the second quarter, when last year’s top quarterbacks, junior Jonathan Murphy and sophomore Xavier Shepherd, were in the game. Murphy recorded the game’s first two completions early in the second quarter, including a 39-yard touchdown along the right sideline to sophomore receiver Iaan Cousin. A couple of drives later, Shepherd ended the first half by connecting with receiver Xavier Hill on fourth-and-goal.
A 40-yard pass from sophomore quarterback DeAngelo Hardy to sophomore receiver Quailyn Leake with three seconds left in regulation gave the offense its longest gain, but sophomore linebacker William Jenkins intercepted Hardy’s next pass on the night’s final play.
“One of the (priorities) is getting back to what everybody knows Kennesaw for playing,” Jenkins said. “Playing hard, playing fast. We will do our job, we’re going to fly to the ball.”
This year will mark a season of transition for the Owls. After three championships in the Big South, Kennesaw State is joining the Atlantic Sun for the conference’s inaugural season and will face an 11-game schedule that includes an away contest against College Football Playoff entrant Cincinnati.
Bohannon is confident that the defense, and especially the defensive line, can match up well against anyone on the Owls’ schedule.
“Two-deep, when they decide they want to play, they should be as good as anybody anywhere,” Bohannon said of the defensive line. “I saw some guys do some good things on the pass rush, and that’s not anything new to spring ball.”