Photo: KSU Athletics/Kyle Hess
Photo: KSU Athletics/Kyle Hess

Kennesaw State emphasizes finishes after Samford’s late touchdown

Overall, Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon was proud of the step forward his team took in Saturday’s tight game against Samford.

The Owls demonstrated better attention to detail, and the 24-10 win gave Kennesaw State’s young defense the confidence it needs to prepare for five conference games over the next six weeks, but Bohannon was disappointed in his team’s inability to finish the game.

For the game’s first 58 minutes, the Owls (4-1) limited the Bulldogs to a field goal, which was scored on the game’s first drive. Bohannon applauded the defensive stamina on the drive, which lasted nearly seven minutes, saying it gave the Owls a mental edge for most of the game. The defensive effort faded late in the game, however, as the Owls allowed a touchdown on Samford’s final possession.

“I feel like the last drive, we let up a little bit being in the fourth quarter,” senior linebacker Anthony Gore Jr. said. “(We were) kind of saying the game is out of reach, but we learned from that and we learned not to see the game as out of reach (but) to see the game as if we’re tied and as if we’re going to overtime. 

“We should step on their throat instead of giving them life.”

Samford (1-4) entered Saturday averaging 384 yards, but was limited to 272 total, 220 passing, by Kennesaw State. The Bulldogs also only crossed into the red zone once to score a first field goal before scoring their late touchdown.

The key in stopping Samford’s offense was not just familiarity with the team from playing them twice last season and a detailed defensive plan, but limiting senior quarterback Devlin Hodges.

Hodges, who averaged 365.5 passing yards entering Saturday’s game, completed 21 of 34 for 150 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 45 yards.

“I thought really we did a nice job it just not letting anything behind us, no big place, making them earn everything, making them have to go down the field and earn it,” Bohannon said. “I thought we did a good job of that. We probably got more pressure on the (quarterback) than anyone has in a while truthfully. ... He’s hard to get on the ground.”

The inability to finish the game Saturday wasn’t something Bohannon saw solely with his young defense.  Bohannon, in his fourth season at Kennesaw State, said he wanted to see his offense punch the ball in the end zone on their final possession instead of settling for a 33-yard field goal with 7:11 left in the game.

Bohannon said Tuesday finishing the game would be emphasized in practice this week in all three phases.

Kennesaw State kick off conference play against Presbyterian College at 2 p.m. Saturday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

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