Kent State wins first bowl game; upset Utah State 51-41

The Kent State Golden Flashes (7-6, 5-3 MAC) won its first bowl game in school history with a 51-41 shootout victory over Utah State (7-6, 6-2 MWC) in the Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl.

The Flashes gained gained 550 total yards – the third most in a game this season – and scored 50 points for just the second time all year.

“That’s a tremendous job by these young men and they did it in a first-class bowl,” head coach Sean Lewis said. “The resiliency of these guys and this team is a testament to the hard work they’ve put in.”

The Aggies flew down the field on their opening drive, as Gerold Bright scored a four-yard touchdown give Utah State the early 7-0 advantage.

After two plays resulting in -3 yards on Kent State’s first drive, Dustin Crum launched a 78-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKoy to even the score.

The Golden Flashes kept their foot on the gas as Xavier Williams scored from two yards out to extend their lead over the Aggies. Mandela Lawrence-Burke picked off Utah State quarterback Jordan Love on the next possession and Matthew Trickett drilled a 40-yard field goal to give the Flashes a 17-7 advantage. The Flashes scored 17 unanswered points in the opening quarter.

Utah State answered with 10 unanswered points capped off by a Dominik Eberle 25-yard touchdown from Love.

Kent State’s Derek Adams lined up to punt for the first time midway through the second quarter. His kick took a #FlashFAST hop into the Utah State returner and Elvis Hines recovered at the Aggies’ 10-yard line.

Trickett hit a field goal to pull the Flashes back in front. Another field goal from the Mid-American Conference Special Teams Player of the Year gave Kent State a 23-17 lead at the break.

On the first possession of the second half, the Flashes went 41 yards in eight plays for Trickett’s fourth field goal of the game.

The Aggies scored the next 10 points and took a 27-26 lead into the fourth quarter.

Utah State punted early in the fourth quarter and the Flashes took full advantage. Crum hit Antwan Dixon on a 53-yard pass that put Kent State inside the five-yard line. Will Matthews ran it in from four yards out and then converted the two-point conversion to give the Flashes a 34-27 lead with 13:31 left to play.

After a Utah State touchdown, Crum hit Dixon on a one-yard touchdown pass to give the Flashes a 41-34 lead. Zayin West forced a fumble on the ensuing Aggies’ possession and Alex Hoag recovered to put Kent State in Aggie territory.

Trickett drilled a 37-yard field goal to put the Flashes ahead, 44-34. His field goal broke the Kent State record for most field goals in a single game, broke the record for most field goals in Frisco Bowl history and tied the NCAA bowl record for most field goals in a single game.

Utah State drove the field and Love connected with Mariner on his third touchdown of the day to cut the lead to three, 44-41.

The Flashes iced the game away and capped off their first ever bowl victory with a four-yard rushing touchdown by Crum.

Crum was named the offensive MVP, totaling 436 total yards including a career-high 147 on the ground while scoring three touchdowns. Qwuantrezz Knight was named the game’s defensive MVP, racking up a nine tackles, a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss and a career-high 1.5 sacks.

McKoy led the Flashes with six receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. Dixon snagged five passes for a season-high 99 yards and a touchdown. Matthews posted 56 yards on the ground with a score, while Williams scored for the fourth-consecutive game.

Lawrence-Burke tied for the team lead with 10 tackles. It was his fifth double-digit tackle game of the season. Keith Sherald Jr. also posted 10 tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

The Flashes totaled a nine tackles for loss, their second most in a single game this season. It was the first game all year that Kent State recorded nine tackles for loss, four sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.

The Golden Flashes finished with seven wins on the season for the first time since 2012.