On a night when Kent State honored its last bowl team and only Mid-American Conference championship football team, the Golden Flashes took a small first step toward regaining the status achieved by that 1972 squad.
Kent State, under second-year coach Darrell Hazell, clobbered visiting Towson 41-21 in front 15,121 at Dix Stadium on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
The first half nearly ended with a blooper to remember when Kent State's Andre Parker ran 50 yards in the wrong direction after a Towson player inadvertently touched a bouncing punt at his own 12.
The ball, however, was brought back to the Tigers' 12 with 17 seconds left until halftime. Kent State took a 27-7 lead on Cortez's 22-yard field goal as play expired.
The Flashes, aiming to improve upon last year's 5-7 record, were sparked by speedster Dri Archer, who scored three touchdowns and set up a fourth.
The Laurel, Fla., junior had two kick returns for 155 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown, to go along with touchdown runs of 15 and 18 yards.
Kent State senior quarterback Spencer Keith, who won a closely contested battle to remain the starter, completed 10 of 19 throws for 82 yards and added a rushing touchdown.
Kent State reserve junior quarterback David Fisher connected with true freshman Josh Boyle on a 63-yard scoring pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Flashes senior kicker Freddy Cortez, with 36 career field goals, was shaken up in the third quarter on a running-into-the-kicker penalty. He did return to kick two extra points, though.
Kent State's defense, led by junior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, forced six Towson turnovers - four fumbles and two interceptions. As a freshman, Nix was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
The Golden Flashes limited Towson to 186 yards of total offense through three quarters. Towson senior quarterback Grant Enders finished 26-of-36 passing for 246 yards and a late-game scoring strike.
Sophomore Terrance West (Northwestern) had two touchdown runs for theTigers.
Kent State scored a touchdown on the game's first possession, marching 43 yards after a 60-yard kick return by Archer. The Flashes converted on fourth-and-1 at the Towson 9, and Keith finished off an 11-play drive with a 5-yard scoring run.
Following a Towson fumble on its own 34, Kent State increased its lead to 14-0 on a 15-yard run by Archer down the left sideline at 6:37 of the first quarter.
The Tigers coughed up the ensuing kick return, and Kent State took advantage to increase its lead to 17-0 on Cortez's 35-yard field goal with 4:28 still left in the opening quarter.
Cortez missed wide right on a 43-yard field goal attempt at 7:59 of the second quarter.
After two fumbles and a punt, Towson finally put together a sustained drive, going 74 yards, capped by an 8-yard touchdown run by Terrance West with 1:51 left until halftime.
That cut the margin to 17-7, but Archer took the Towson kickoff back 98 yards untouched for a touchdown to run the score to 24-7 at 1:39 of the second quarter.
Enders then was intercepted by Kent State's Norman Wolfe, Jr. - Towson's third turnover of the half - but the Flashes had to punt.
NOTES: Kent State recognized its 1972 team on the 40th anniversary of its accomplishments. Fifty players and coaches were present, including head coach Don James, current Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel and KSU football-track star Gerald Tinker, who won an Olympic sprint gold medal at the 1972 Munich Summer Games.Jack Lambert, who was captain of the '72 team, was on campus earlier in the week. Current Alabama head coach Nick Saban, a three-year KSU letter winner, was unable to attend ... The Golden Flashes have their sights set on a bowl berth in 2012, which would be the program's first since a Tangerine Bowl appearance by the 1972 squad ... The Flashes' last winning season came in 2001 (6-5 under Dean Pees) ...Towson came into the contest as the defending champions of the Colonial Athletic Conference; however, the Tigers have never beaten an FBS or major-college opponent (0-5).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun