Kennesaw State set for biggest stage yet

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Sep. 7—KENNESAW — Coach Brian Bohannon wants people to recognize what is going on with the Kennesaw State football program.

Considering the Owls are 53-16 all-time with two Big South Conference championships and three Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances, fans of the program, as well as alumni and likely most people in Cobb County are aware of how good the program has been over its first seven seasons.

However, there are still a few firsts Kennesaw State has not accomplished, but it can take care of one Saturday when it heads to Bobby Dodd Stadium for a noon kickoff against Georgia Tech.

Beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

Kennesaw State has played two FBS opponents previously, losing late leads in both games — a 24-20 loss at Georgia State in 2018 and a 26-23 overtime loss the following season to Kent State.

On Saturday, the Owls will get to see if the third try is the charm.

"Saturday will be a great opportunity to put a product on the field we feel good about," Bohannon said. "I think this stage is the biggest one we've been on in a while, and I think what a great opportunity for our program to go be on this stage to show who we are and what we're about.

"I want people to recognize what these players have done and what these coaches have done over a period of time, so I think anything we can do to open the door to show people what's going on with Kennesaw State football, that's huge, and I think, Saturday, the platform is bigger than a normal Saturday — or Thursday — for us."

It will be Kennesaw State's first time facing a Power Five opponent. Georgia Tech was the first FBS opponent the Owls had a signed contract to face, with the matchup having been on the schedule since October 2014.

However, much has changed around Georgia Tech since the game became official, with longtime coach Paul Johnson — Bohannon's coaching mentor and former boss at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech — retiring and new coach Geoff Collins beginning a rebuilding project.

"Coach Johnson was still the coach when this contract was initially done," Bohannon said. "For us, we were trying to get games in the state of Georgia. It's a priority for us if we can get them, especially if we can get an FBS game in the state of Georgia."

Saturday will be the second of three scheduled FBS games in the state for the Owls. They signed a contract earlier this summer to face Georgia Southern in 2025, leaving Georgia as the only in-state FBS program not to give Kennesaw State a game.

A few positives

Bohannon said there were a few good things that he saw after watching the tape of last Thursday's 35-25 victory over Reinhardt.

He cautioned, though, that there were very few.

"For those who have watched us, when we are at our best, you can kind of see it," Bohannon said. "I think there were some times you saw that, but you didn't see it very long. The amount of missed assignments were off the charts. We were all over the place. Because we have not been able to get a unit together, especially offensively, and even, in some places, defensively, we have not been in good enough shape to navigate four quarters. That showed up in the game.

"There were a lot of things that need to be better, and I think our kids understand that. Now, can they go out and practice the right way? The way we practice here, to go fix some things? That's the challenge right now.

"At times, there were 11 guys running to the ball on defense, and a little bit of execution on offense, but we couldn't sustain it and couldn't maintain our focus for a period of time, which is our biggest challenge."

Walking wounded

Kennesaw State continues to suffer from a big case of the injury bug. More than 20 players missed the game against Reinhardt, and Bohannon said the outlook did not seem to be much better heading into Saturday's game.

Two key players may be looking at different fates this week.

For the first time since fall camp broke last month, all-conference running back and return specialist Isaac Foster returned to practice. He was limited Monday, but Bohannon said, if he continues to progress, there is a chance Foster will suit up against Georgia Tech.

One player who did not practice Monday was starting quarterback Jonathan Murphy.

Murphy, who ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns and threw for a third TD against Reinhardt, is considered day-to-day. If he is unable to play, Xavier Shepherd, who came in for Murphy in the second half, would likely get the start. Shepherd ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

On the air

Saturday's game will be broadcast by Bally Sports South and ESPN3. It can also be heard at KSUOwls.com, on the KSU Owls app and through the Georgia Tech radio broadcast via 680 The Fan.

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