Long drive may have helped KSU find itself

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Sep. 21—During Kennesaw State's game Saturday at Wofford last Saturday, the Owls' offense went on a 22-play, 72-yard drive that took 11 1/2 minutes off the clock.

It set program marks for the most plays in a single drive, breaking the previous best of 20 plays against Montana State in 2017, and in time elapsed, bettering the time of 10:47 Kennesaw State needed in a 19-play drive against Gardner-Webb in 2015.

For Owls coach Brian Bohannon, when a team embarks on one of those time-consuming drives, he said the coaches and players do not really realize exactly how long it really is, but there are some indicators that a team is on to something special when it does happen — especially the offensive line.

"They can tell," Bohannon said, "especially up front when they can impose their will. They want to get back in there and keep going."

One thing in common with Kennesaw State's record-setting drives is that it was able to stay in front of the chains. For the most part, during those marches, the Owls found themselves in third or fourth down with manageable situations, which Bohannon said was key.

"There isn't any other way to do it," he said. "Keep it to third-and-2, third-and-3, and if you have watched us at all over the years, you know going for it on fourth-and-1 isn't out of the ordinary."

Another thing the drives had in common was one play in which Kennesaw State overcame a third- or fourth-and-long situation.

Against Gardner-Webb in 2015, Kennesaw State went for it on fourth-and-9 at the Running Bulldogs' 27. On one of only two pass plays on the drive, Gardner-Webb was called for roughing the passer to give the Owls an automatic first down.

Against Montana State in 2017, the 20-play drive was actually the third extended drive of the game. Kennesaw State had already gone on a 17-play drive to start the game, as well as a 16-play drive earlier in the second half.

On the 20-play drive, the Owls started the drive on their own 2-yard line with 11:58 to play. Six plays in, Chandler Burks completed a 15-yard pass to T.J. Reed on third-and-10 to move the chains.

On the same drive, Kennesaw State also converted on fourth-and-2 and fourth-and-6 — the latter coming from the Montana State 35. The Owls had another fourth-and-1 situation at the Bobcats' 20 with 2 minutes to play.

It was one of the few situations where Bohannon said he talked himself out of going for it again.

"I remember that drive against Montana State really well," he said. "It felt we were hardly going anywhere. That last one, I wanted to go for it, but I asked myself, 'Am I rolling the dice one too many times?' So we decided to get points."

Instead, Justin Thompson kicked what turned out to be the game-winning 37-yard field goal.

In fact, that is the third thing all three drives had in common. All ended with successful field goal tries instead of touchdowns.

"It's good to get points," Bohannon said. "Everyone on offense would like to have a touchdown and finish the drive in that situation, but it was good to get points.

In Kennesaw State's 31-10 win over Wofford, Xavier Shepherd completed a pass on third-and-11 to Adeolu Adeleke on the fourth play of the record-setting drive to keep it going. The Owls also converted a pair of fourth-and-1s along the way.

For Bohannon, each drive provided the team something special.

He said the drive against Gardner-Webb showed teams his offense could play the long, drag-out game if necessary. Against Montana State, the game-winning drive really started to put the program on the map as it went on to beat a good team from the Big Sky, one of the premier conferences in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Against Wofford, it was a return to playing football like he knows the program can.

Injury update

Normally, Bohannon said he would prefer to have his bye week later in the season, but for his banged-up crew, he said he thinks it came at the proper time this season.

With an extra week to prepare to host future ASUN Conference rival Jacksonville State, Bohannon said there is a good chance the team will get many of the injured players back, including four starters — quarterback Jonathan Murphy, running back Isaac Foster and defensive linemen Peyton Moore and Travis Bell — who all missed the game against Wofford.

Moving up

After the win over Wofford, Kennesaw State moved up one spot to No. 23 in the STATS Perform FCS poll. In the coaches' poll, the Owls were back in it at No. 24 after being out of the rankings for a week.

Up next

Kennesaw State will host No. 9 Jacksonville State on Oct. 2 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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