KENNESAW, Ga. — They had done everything within their powers to put themselves in a position to not only taste a win for the first time in nine outings but to knock off the newest NCAA Division I Football Championship program.
But with eight seconds left in the game and in position to kick what would have been a game-winning 37-yard field goal, a bad snap ended all hopes for the Shorter Hawks as the host Kennesaw State Owls ended the game scooping up the ball to race 65 yards for a touchdown to seal the Owls’ 18-10 win Saturday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
The heartbreaking loss, which overshadowed a gutsy performance by the Shorter defense that held a high-powered KSU offense without a touchdown, leaves the Hawks with an 0-2 record heading into their second straight FCS showdown next Saturday when they visits Cape Girardeau, Mo., to square off against Ohio Valley Conference member Southeast Missouri State.
The Hawks’ defense set the tone for Shorter in the first quarter, coming up with a pair of stops in the red zone where Kennesaw had to settle for a pair of field goals, the first a 42-yarder off the foot of Justin Thompson that ended the Owls’ first series of the afternoon and the second a 26-yarder by Thompson with 5:35 to go in the first stanza.
That, however, would be the last points the home team would put on the board in the first half.
Shorter cut KSU’s lead in half on the first play of the second quarter when, thanks to a 39-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Bryant to end Cody Simpson that put SU deep into Kennesaw territory, Langford split the uprights from 44 yards.
Shorter’s defense continued to thwart Kennesaw the rest of the way, forcing the Owls to turn the ball over at the SU 4 when Willy Dorcin forced KSU quarterback Trey White to fumble and allow Trevaris Horton to fall on the loose ball just five minutes into the second quarter.
The turning point of the opening half came with just over two minutes until the half when senior cornerback Wesley Clay stepped in front of a White pass on the left sideline and raced 73 yards to the Kennesaw 2. One play later, junior fullback B.J. McCoy plowed into the end zone to give Shorter the lead with 2:28 to go until the break with Langford adding the point after.
Kennesaw made one last shot to close the gap as the first half ended but could not convert a 32-yard field goal attempt.
Kennesaw, which was able to move the ball between the 20s, opened the second half with another threat on their first series of the third quarter when the Owls missed a 46-yard field goal try.
Thompson, however, did finally find the distance as time expired in the third period when he pulled his team to within one of the Hawks, 10-9, by nailing a 46-yard FG.
Then, with 1:28 to go in the game Kennesaw saw another drive stall deep in Shorter territory but took a 12-10 lead when Thompson connected on a 28-yard field goal with 1:28 left in the game.
That set up what proved to be the only extended offensive drive the Hawks could put together as they mounted a 61-yard drive to the Kennesaw 11. A holding penalty on Shorter moved the ball back to the KSU 21 where Shorter called a time out to set up what they hoped would be a game-winning field goal from Langford from 37 yards out before the bad snap.
Shorter ended the game gaining 176 yards in total offense — they had 111 at the half — and just 41 yards on the ground, while Bryant completed 8 of 11 passes for 135 yards, most of that coming on the last drive. Simpson led Shorter’s receivers with three catches for 72 yards.
The Owls, who led the FCS in rushing and was second in scoring, finished the day rolling up 417 total yards, 231 of that on the ground. It was the first time in three games, Kennesaw did not score an offensive touchdown.
Junior linebacker Zach Butts led the Shorter defensive charge with a game-high 16 tackles, 15 of those solo stops.