SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It took nearly a full half for Kennesaw State’s vaunted running game to find its way Saturday afternoon.
When it did, there was no looking back in what became a 35-24 victory for the No. 6 Owls at Missouri State’s Plaster Sports Complex.
Through the first 11:21 of the second quarter, Kennesaw State (3-1) had only 65 yards on 18 carries. In addition, a lost fumble inside their own 1-yard line led to an easy Missouri State touchdown and a 13-0 lead for the Bears.
It took all of 17 seconds for it to be fixed.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Isaac Foster broke free for a 75-yard touchdown, breaking several tackles and muscling his way into the end zone.
Foster also added a 67-yard scoring run on a one-play drive to open the third quarter, while Bronson Rechsteiner went up the middle for an 85-yard score on the first play of the Owls’ next drive.
Rechsteiner had a 64-yard run later in the quarter, leading to a Shaquil Terry 4-yard touchdown to make it a two-score game late.
“This win means a lot,” Rechsteiner said. “It’s always great to win, especially in the Missouri Valley Conference. Everybody around the country knows it’s one of the toughest conferences, if not the toughest conference, around.
“I’m just thankful to be a part of this team, thankful to be a part of this win.”
Rechsteiner finished with a team-record 221 rushing yards, averaging 22.1 yards per carry. The senior broke the previous mark of 195 yards set by Darnell Holland last season against Monmouth.
Foster added 183 yards and two scores, averaging 22.9 yards per rush, while Kennesaw State finished with 479 rushing yards as a team.
“I told them afterward, we grew up today, and we needed to grow up,” Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said. “We grew up today because we were down at the half, and I was really proud of the way our kids responded. They came out and got things going and found a way to win the game.”
Kennesaw State’s first four touchdown drives covered a combined six plays, 296 yards and took only 1:58 off the clock.
“We just kept doing what we do and we cleaned some things up and were able to finish the thing off,” Bohannon said.
“We didn’t change a whole lot at halftime. We just made a few corrections. We just wanted to go execute a little better, eliminate negative plays and eliminate some penalties. Fortunately, some things opened up.”
Missouri State (0-3) was playing in its home opener and got the crowd of 11,421 going early with a touchdown on its first drive — a 6-yard pass from Peyton Huslig to Lorenzo Thomas. The Bears were left with a 6-0 lead after the point-after was blocked by Bryson Armstrong.
Kennesaw State (3-1) mounted its first significant drive midway through the second quarter, moving to the 27-yard line on a march that was helped by a Missouri State targeting penalty, but a 44-yard field goal try by Nathan Robertson was wide-right.
Missouri State’s ensuing drive ended in a punt that went out of bounds inside the Owls’ 1-yard line. A fumble on the first play was recovered by the Bears at the 1, and Huslig ran in two plays later for a 13-0 lead.
Then, the onslaught began. Foster’s first touchdown came on the next play from scrimmage.
“As I was coming around the corner, Caleb O’Neal, the wideout, had a great block on the outside, and I just tried to cut up through him,” Foster said. “I was lucky enough to break a few tackles, keep my feet and get to the end zone.”
The efficient third quarter saw Kennesaw State run six plays and possess the ball for 1:48, but those plays went for 223 yards as the Owls took all the momentum and the control with the three long runs — two for TDs and another setting up a third score.
Rechsteiner ripped off a 64-yard run on the first play of a possession late in the third quarter, with Terry hitting the end zone on a 4-yard run two plays later for a 28-16 lead.
Rechsteiner added a 43-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to go over the 200-yard mark for the day, leading to a 4-yard touchdown by David and a 35-16 lead with 6:10 to play.
Next up for the Owls is a home game against in-state NAIA rival Reinhardt. Kennesaw State has not played at home since a season-opening win over Point on Aug. 31.
“We’re ready to go (home),” Bohannon said. “It’s really been good for this football team. Never do you want to go on the road for three weeks, especially the travel we’ve had.
“But I think, for a young team to grow up, this is how you do it. You’ve got to go face adversity, navigate it and find a way to overcome it. I think we did that today.”