Battle of the birds for the Big South title

Battle of the birds for the Big South title

Junior running back Darnell Holland rushed for a career-high three touchdowns in Kennesaw State’s 38-0 blowout victory over Charleston Southern Saturday afternoon.

The win marks the Owls’ ninth consecutive victory and gives KSU the opportunity to play for the Big South Conference title next week against Monmouth.

A year after the Owls had their playoff hopes crushed by the Buccaneers in the final game of the season, they sought revenge in a game that was crucial to both their playoff and conference title aspirations.

With the win, the Owls set a program record for wins in a single season and broke the Buccaneers’ nine-game road winning streak, the longest in Big South Conference history.

Darnell Holland scored three first-half touchdowns for the Owls, leading the way with 109 of the team’s 343 rushing yards.

Bronson Rechsteiner scored a touchdown on a career-long 26-yard run, and redshirt freshman Tommy Bryant took advantage of a rare appearance with a 51-yard dash to score his first career touchdown.

The 38-point margin of victory is the largest for the Owls over a Big South opponent.

The uncompromising KSU defense controlled the tempo of the game by forcing four turnovers, including two forced fumbles and two interceptions. Out of the 38 total points scored by the Owls, 21 points were a result of turnovers, eliciting appearances by the turnover plank.

Anthony Gore Jr. led the defense with eight solo tackles and Bryson Armstrong recorded two sacks and a forced fumble. The CSU offense was held to 187 yards and rarely posed a threat at any point in the game. CSU failed to keep drives alive, going 3-11 on 3rd down.

“It’s a great win. I am so proud of our kids, this program, and the way we came out and competed to beat a team we haven’t beat since we started,” said head coach Brian Bohannon. “A year ago, we were in a very similar situation and we got caught up in all the hype and people talking about playoffs. We have to focus on the day-to-day, the task at hand.”

With the Owls and the Hawks sitting at 9-1 records, the importance of Saturday’s regular-season finale is massive. A win for the Owls would not only clinch their first Big South Conference title, but it would also secure an automatic playoff berth.

The FCS playoff is a 24-team tournament with the top eight seeds receiving a first-round bye. Of the 24 teams, 11 are conference champions and 14 are at-large bids chosen on merit by an official FCS committee.

Regardless of the category, a playoff appearance for the Owls would be huge. It is unheard of for a football program to have so much success in only its third year.

A healthy mix of shrewd recruiting, organized tactics and a positive mindset instilled by the coaches has helped the players compete to the best of their abilities and for each other.

It was incredible enough for KSU to do as well as they did in their first season, but in just three seasons, the team has become an established force in the FCS.

For a school that has been on the rise in the academic world for the past decade or so, KSU’s overall identity is now being shaped in part by its up-and-coming football program.

The Owls and Hawks will play at 2 p.m. and will be available to watch on ESPN3 and on the radio at 106.3 FM and 1230 AM The Fan.

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