The gold-out game did not disappoint, coming down to a 1-yard touchdown run by Chandler Burks with 0:16 left on the clock to defeat the North Greenville Crusaders.
The final possession of the game began on the KSU 26 yard-line with only five minutes remaining. Two key passes from Burks to Justin Sumpter and Darnell Holland got KSU into Crusader territory.
A previously quiet Jake McKenzie got them into the red zone. Burks capped off the 4:43, 12-play, 74-yard drive with a 1-yard go-ahead touchdown run to defeat the Crusaders 38-34.
“We kept fighting tonight, and it wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win,” head coach Brian Bohannon said. “We took the ball 75 yards with the game on the line and found a way to win. We have to continue to focus on playing for a full four quarters, and there are things from tonight we will learn from.”
As expected, the Owls’ defensive front proved to be problematic for the NGU rushing attack, allowing only 47 rushing yards on the day. With no running game, NGU had no choice but to rely on their redshirt sophomore quarterback Will Hunter.
NGU scored first, but KSU answered with back-to-back touchdowns to take a 14-7 first quarter lead. Shaquil Terry set up the Owls’ first touchdown, running 61 yards until he was pushed out of bounds at the NGU 3-yard line. This led to a Burks 1-yard touchdown run, his first of the night.
The Owls’ defense responded quickly, forcing a 3-and-out, getting NGU off the field. After the punt, KSU set up on the 29-yard line, and eight plays later KSU took its first lead of the game on a Bronson Rechsteiner 18-yard TD run.
It seemed KSU was going to run the score up on NGU after an early second-quarter touchdown pass to Trey Chivers increased the Owls lead 21-7, but this wasn’t the case.
NGU quarterback Will Hunter pieced together a successful drive, ending in a 44-yard touchdown pass, but Bryson Armstrong blocked the extra point to keep it to a 21-13 scoreline. After a field goal by North Greenville, the game was 21-16 at the half.
Daniel David came in at quarterback for a cramping Burks in the third quarter. He threw a game-changing fourth-down pass to keep a drive going that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by David.
Although it seemed the KSU offense was firing on all cylinders, it still could not shake NGU as it scored yet again to keep it close, making it 28-23 through three quarters.
Burks returned in the fourth quarter to finish off what he had started. After another NGU field goal to make it 28-26, KSU scored a field goal of its own to reclaim a five-point lead.
The Crusaders put together a hard-fought, momentum-swinging drive, scoring a touchdown and converting a two-point conversion to take the lead back, 34-31. With their backs against the wall and only five minutes on the clock, the Owls showed their will to win, driving down the field and sealing the victory.
“Hopefully, this was as close to a wakeup call as we’re going to get,” Bohannon said. “When you have the opponent down, you knock them out. You don’t let them get up a little bit, [or] then they get the momentum and the whole complexion of the game changes.”
The standout players in the game were once again Burks and Armstrong. Burks led the team in rushing with 100 yards and two touchdowns while also passing for over 100 yards and throwing a touchdown pass. Armstrong had two sacks, a blocked field goal and several key third-down tackles.
The Owls are 3-1 on the season and play next Saturday at home against Texas Southern.
Texas Southern has yet to win a game this season. Although it looks like an easy win, KSU would be wise to take this game seriously and aim to put next week’s competition away early.
The game starts at 7 p.m. at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. The game is available on Peachtree TV, 106.3FM and 1230 AM The Fan.