Owls trying to fix 'self-inflicted wounds'

·3 min read

Sep. 6—KENNESAW — Kennesaw State has gone back to the drawing board.

As cliché as it sounds, it is about all the Owls could do after their season-opening 27-17 loss to Samford last Thursday.

"It did not go as planned," Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. "We have to get better, and we know we have a great opportunity to play a College Football Playoff team in a great environment."

That will be the next test for Kennesaw State (0-1) as it heads to Cincinnati (0-1) on Saturday. The Bearcats, who became the first Group of Five program to make the CFP last season, will head to the Big 12 next year and become a Power Five program.

"I think they are a Power Five team now," Bohannon said.

However, before Kennesaw State can concentrate on Saturday's matchup, it will look to fix the issues which became apparent against Samford.

Only twice before had the Owls lost a game after taking a lead into the fourth quarter, and nearly as uncommon was the only three times the defense allowed a drive of 90 or more yards. Both happened against Samford, and the 93-yard drive that gave the Bulldogs the lead was the second-longest allowed in program history.

Only a 96-yard drive by Liberty during Kennesaw State's inaugural 2015 season was longer.

"The good thing is the majority of the things are fixable," Bohannon said. "There were a lot of self-inflicted wounds."

Samford quarterback Michael Hiers threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns as he consistently found receivers open in the secondary because of blown assignments or missed communications. It led to the Bulldogs converting on eight of 11 third downs, and Owls defensive backs could be seen holding their hands up wondering what had happened.

It did not get much better on the offensive side, where Kennesaw State could not get its running game going. As well as Samford played on third down, the Owls were held in check.

"Offense was 3-of-11 on third down and the defense was 3-of-11," Bohannon said. "You aren't going to win any games when you play like that. We have to give ourselves a chance.

"We actually played some decent defense at times, but when we didn't, it was bad. I told the team, 'We're better than that.'"

Injury update

Some of the issues on the offense could be attributed to having inexperienced players on the offensive line.

Matt Olson and Mike Fangman, who were set to be the Owls' centers, have been out with injuries, forcing the line to be juggled and have a pair of freshman, Nathan Wright and Seth Adams, start at the tackle positions. James Dawson moved inside for snapping duties, and the line could not get things sealed on the perimeter.

It led to quarterback Xavier Shepherd running a program-record 35 times, but always in the middle of the field and for only 64 yards.

Olson returned to practice, but Bohannon does not know his availability for Saturday. Fangman is listed as the backup on the two-deep depth chart.

Another key member of the offense who was out last week was slotback Iaan Cousin. Last year's leading receiver with 14 catches for 337 yards and two touchdowns, Cousin is expected to return this week.

Penalty rescinded

Defensive lineman Kerick Reese was flagged for targeting and was ejected from the game in the second half. Bohannon said the play was appealed, and the penalty was rescinded. It means Reese will be available for the entire game Saturday.

If the ruling had not been overturned, Reese would have had to miss the first half against Cincinnati.