By Nick Shook
After the two teams traded field goals and touchdowns in the first half, Kent State started the scoring in the third quarter on a 5-yard Dri Archer touchdown run, his second of the night.
But it was a rare play, one that may have been considered a leap of faith, that blew the game wide open for the Flashes in the third quarter.
Leading 24-13, the Flashes faced 4th and 3 at their own 39. Everyone in Peden Stadium likely expected Kent State to punt, but with an 11-point lead, Haynes took a risk that produced quite the reward.
Haynes called for a fake punt, which sent usual nose tackle Nate Terhune — positioned as an upback in punt formation — barreling down the Ohio sideline, football in arm, much to the surprise of the Bobcats’ return team. As Terhune followed his blocks through a wide-open lane, he finally encountered a defender at the 40-yard line, but instead of lowering his 6-foot-4, 265-pound frame into the opponent he chose to go airborne, hurdling Ohio defensive back Daz Pattersons and continuing his 61-yard rumble down the field for a touchdown.
The stunning scamper gave the Flashes a decisive 31-13 advantage, but even more remarkable was Terhune’s leap, considering he is only eight weeks removed from a leg fracture suffered against Louisiana State.
“[The broken leg] didn’t really cross my mind, I was just trying to get over the guy,” Terhune said. “I just tried to do everything fast. As soon as they gave us the look, I tried to call it fast.
“Hopefully that will be in the game-plan again next year.”
It wasn’t Terhune’s first carry on a fake punt — he took a handoff 31 yards against Bowling Green in 2012 — and he says he predetermined that he would add a little flair if the opportunity presented itself in the future.
“I had visualized that leap in my head since last year when they called it,” Terhune said. “I know in BG when we ran it, I tried to hurdle the guy and didn’t get my leg up high enough, so I was really trying to pick the knees up. That’s how I had imagined the play going the whole time.”
The play evaporated any momentum left on the Ohio sidelines and catapulted the Flashes to their best, most complete win of the season, all of which coming on national television.
The remarkable run sent social media into a frenzy, with a national audience taking to Twitter to tweet about their favorite touchdown from the weeknight MAC games. With video links posted to accompany phrases such as “fat guy touchdown,” Terhune’s name was the second-most trending topic in the United States. But Terhune will have to borrow his teammates’ phones to enjoy his newfound fame, because he doesn’t have a Twitter account.
He’s OK with being called a “fat guy,” because his play placed him as the night’s second-leading rusher for Kent State and helped his team come out victorious.
“I saw that too,” Terhune said. “I’ll embrace it. That’s fine with me.”
Kent State continued its dominance in the second half, extending its lead to 37-13 with two field goals from kicker Anthony Melchiori, from 26 and 28 yards out, early in the fourth quarter. With the game well in hand, running back Dri Archer scored his third and final touchdown of the night on a 29-yard run with 1:46 left to play, but ruffled a few feathers among the Ohio faithful after his momentum sent him into a grassy hill beyond the endzone.
A cannon on the hill, manned by Ohio University ROTC students and fired in celebration of Bobcats’ scores, was located near where Archer was swarmed by teammates congratulating him on his touchdown. Running back Trayion Durham tackled Archer onto the hill in front of the cannon, forcing ROTC members to usher them off the field.
Ohio coach Frank Solich voiced his displeasure with that, and the manner in which Kent State conducted itself with the game in hand in the latter portion of the second half to Haynes after the game. Ohio students also took to Twitter to criticize Archer’s actions after the touchdown, but to the senior running back, who finished with 138 yards and 3 touchdowns on 15 carries playing in his final game as a Flash, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was a helluva game,” Archer said. “I’m proud of everybody. The way we finished, you know, the season didn’t go as well as we planned, but we finished strong. It’s going to leave a lot of momentum going into next season for the younger guys.”
Haynes echoed similar sentiments after the game.
“It was good to send our seniors out the right way on a two-game winning streak,” Haynes said. “It’s good for our program going into the offseason to come out with two good wins and catapult us to have a great offseason.”
It was a sweet victory for a team that has endured injuries and challenges that at times, seemed mountainous. On the final night of the season, all parts of the team came together in sync, gaining 537 yards on offense and limiting Ohio to 13 points and 207 total yards. The players and coaches were about as happy as a 4-8 team can be after winning its final game of the year.
“It’s awesome,” Haynes said. “The kids are excited, I’m excited for them. We probably played our best game tonight, which is awesome to see them put all three phases together.”
“For them to have the confidence and play so well, it’s huge to go into the offseason.”