KENT, Ohio - The atmosphere was electrifying at Dix Stadium Saturday afternoon on homecoming weekend, as over 11,000 alumni, friends and family packed the stadium for "MACtion" between two young programs.
Kent State, coming off two straight road games, flashed a strong start that showed promise and the "Kent Grit" Head Coach Kenni Burns has pumping throughout his locker room.
The day started with the Golden Flashes seizing the momentum. Kicker Andrew Glass showcased his precision by nailing two impeccable field goals from 38 and 37 yards out, granting Kent State an early 6-0 advantage. Defensive end Stephen Daley picked off Bulls quarterback Cole Snyder at the Buffalo 22-yard line setting up the 37 yarder.
But as the saying goes, it's not about how you start but how you finish. Those initial points by the Flashes were the only ones they'd see on the scoreboard for the remainder of the game.
"This game is on me," Coach Burns said postgame. "Obviously disappointed we didn't get it done today. We did everything we possibly could do. My players gave me all the energy and effort. As coaches we have to keep putting them in situations to win, and making sure we do everything to give them a chance."
The Bulls' resurgence began in earnest during the second quarter. The spotlight shone brightly on running backs Ron Cook and Jacquez Barksdale, who both exploded with exhilarating runs that exceeded 25 yards each. Their combined efforts set the stage perfectly for quarterback Cole Snyder.
Demonstrating impeccable timing and vision, Snyder connected with tight end Andrew Schnackenberg off a play action fake, who was wide open in the back of the end zone from two yards out. The Buffalo crowd erupted, sensing the shift in momentum as the Bulls took the lead.
On defense, the Bulls were nothing short of spectacular. They implemented a near-perfect strategy to neutralize Kent State's passing game, ensuring that the Golden Flashes' aerial assault remained grounded throughout the contest.
Coach Burns, drew attention with his tactical approach, employing a two-quarterback system. Both Michael Alaimo and Tommy Ulatowski took turns under center based on the situation in the game. While their combined stats of 76 passing yards and a completion rate of less than 50% might not seem remarkable on paper, their shared duties kept the Bulls' defense on their toes, never truly settling into a rhythm.
"With using both quarterbacks today, we switched based on the situation of the game. Tommy obviously can run the ball and get us out of some situations. As Buffalo brought more pressure and changed things defensively, it was favorable to Tommy's game. At halftime, we felt we were down a little bit and had to get the ball into the air Tommy’s not as good as Mike with the ball in his hands so that's how we utilize both. Both didn't play well enough at quarterback to win,” Burns said in the post-game about his quarterbacks.
This loss knocks the Golden Flashes from any postseason play, but Coach Burns and his team have all sights on the last four games, especially against “The Team Down the Road” also known as the Akron Zips. Burns believes his team will be ready.
“This week we’ll do some self-scouting on Monday and Tuesday on what we've done up to this point well, and what we’ve struggled with. I believe some of our issues have been situational, where we get to certain parts of the field and get stalled. So once we figure out what's working, it’ll put us in a really good situation against the team down the road.”
The teams meet up on Wednesday, November 1st at InfoCision Stadium. Kickoff with be at 7 or 7:30 p.m. ET.