Kennesaw State opens four-game homestand with Alabama State
KENNESAW – After two straight road games, Kennesaw State will finally gets a chance to play in front of the home crowd today.
The Owls will kick off against Alabama State at 5 p.m. inside Fifth Third Bank Stadium, marking the first of four straight home games that will also include Clark Atlanta, No. 9 Samford and Big South Conference rival Presbyterian.
“We’re excited to play our first home game in front of our fans,” Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said. “Our kids always look forward to that, and it’s important that we protect the nest.”
The Owls (1-1) are coming in off a resounding 49-10 win at Tennessee Tech, while Alabama State (1-1) lost 63-9 to Auburn. However, Hornets coach Donald Hill-Eley said in his weekly news conference that there were plenty of wins within the game against the Southeastern Conference power.
Hill-Eley said when he broke down the tape, there were 30 plays he pulled out to show his team -- 12 on offense and defense and another six on special teams -- where it beat Auburn in different situations.
To him, it showed that his team can compete.
“The teams we face from here out, we’ll be able to matchup with size-wise and talent-wise,” he said.
Hill-Eley was on the Alabama State coaching staff last year when it hosted Kennesaw State in Montgomery. He was named interim coach after Brian Jenkins’ firing following a 0-5 start.
After finishing the year 5-1, Hill-Eley was promoted to the permanent position.
Bohannon remembers how even last year’s game with the Hornets was.
The Kennesaw State defense had to stop a drive in which Alabama State was threatening to score and take the lead in the final moments of the game. However, Bryson Armstrong’s sack ended the Hornets’ final hopes, and the Owls got out of Montgomery with a 20-14 win.
“We got out of there barely with a win,” said Bohannon, who sees the potential of a similar game today.
“Offensively, they have a good offensive line, good running backs and their skill positions are good. They are athletic. They get the thing out in space and run around and make plays.”
One of the key players is running back Ezra Gray, who doubles as a kick returner. In a season-opening win over Tuskegee, he led Alabama State with 60 rushing yards, a touchdown and a 72-yard kickoff return. He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, with five receptions over the first two games.
If there is a weak point, it is with the Hornets’ defense and their ability to defend the run, allowing 273 rushing yards to Tuskegee and 429 to Auburn.
Last week, Kennesaw State set a team record with 507 rushing yards against Tennessee Tech –at the time, the most by any Division I team this season.
“They run the football, so it is a very physical game,” Hill-Eley said. “But again, they are FCS and non-conference, but it gives us an opportunity to put our program against one of the top 10 teams in FCS to see how we fare. It gives us a barometer as to where we stand heading into conference play.”
With Hurricane Florence impacting the Atlantic coast this weekend, Kennesaw State is inviting residents displaced by the storm to attend today’s game for free.
All residents with valid North Carolina or South Carolina IDs can receive a complimentary ticket by visiting the stadium ticket office starting at 2 p.m. Children will also receive a complimentary ticket when accompanied by an adult.
A limited supply of tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.
ON THE AIR
Today’s game will be televised in the metro-Atlanta area by Peachtree TV and simulcast through ESPN+. It can also be heard on 1230 AM/106.3 FM the Sports X, and it will be streamed live at KSUOwls.com.