With the first half of the season covered, it is time to look at conference play.
Week 7: October 14th vs Kennesaw State
Head Coach: Brian Bohannon
2016 Record: 8-3
When Coastal Carolina moved to the Sun Belt, the Flames started taking applications for a new rival. While it could be assumed that Charleston Southern would naturally fall into that position, a newcomer has been lobbying for the position in the last two years. Kennesaw State has sought to set the tone when they play against the Flames, both on and off the field. When the Owls aren’t jabbing at Liberty players on Twitter, they are using quick and physical play to get their point across. We are now heading toward the third meeting between the two and, unfortunately, that will be the extent of this “rivalry.” With Liberty’s FBS move, this will be the final meeting between the two for the foreseeable future and the Flames will continue to search for a worthy opponent to fill the hole left by Coastal.
In their two-year history, Kennesaw State is 14-8. This includes six DII wins, wins over Furman and Duquesne, and a 3rd place finish in the Big South last year. The Owls’ rise to success is under the direction of Brian Bohannon, a former coach at Georgia Tech. He brings with him the infamous triple-option, highlighted by his former employer. While they have seen a number of victories in their two seasons, the Owls have struggled to get a handle on conference foes Liberty and Charleston Southern as they account for half of their losses. With Liberty leaving the Big South and not being eligible for the conference championship/playoffs, the Owls will likely be going against CSU for the 1st place finish and playoff bid. Apart from the mentioned teams, the Owls have had little trouble adapting to the talent level of the rest of the conference.
This year will look a little different for the Owls though as they will face some challenges they have yet to see in their tenure: Holes. With it being their 3rd year, a number of key players that transferred or were recruited for Kennesaw’s inaugural season in 2015 have now graduated. Offensively, QB Trey White and RB Chaston Bennett both move on. Bennett is arguably their biggest lost on this side of the ball as he was their 2nd leading rusher, 3rd leading receiver, and a dangerous kick returner. With his departure, there will be some competition at the slotback position opposite of Darnell Holland. They have two QBs looking to take on the starting role as well: Chandler Burks and Daniel David. While David is a talented player, Burks is much more experienced and proven in Coach Bohannan’s offense. And on top of all this, their all-conference center Malik Letatau graduated which leaves some major shoes to fill on the OL.
Their defense wasn’t immune to key departures either. LB Dex Billingslea and two starting DBs in Dante Blackmon and Derrick Farrow have moved on. Blackmon was an all-conference transfer from App State who collected six interceptions for the black and yellow last season. Hoping to make up for his absence, DB Dorian Walker transferred in from Georgia Tech this offseason.
Considering all this, it is clear that Kennesaw State will be looking at new names to take on the roles of prominent players that have left the program. Don’t be fooled though. The Owls are a confident and talented team. They would love nothing more than to give Liberty a going away present before the Flames move on to bigger and better things.
While Kennesaw lost some major components at the close of 2016, they should still be considered a threat. This team is loaded with talent and received a number of FBS transfers this offseason (6). Whether or not the talent transfers remains to be seen.
The Owls visited Williams Stadium for the 1st time in 2015 and lost by 10 points.
Since 2012, the Flames are 4-1 following their bye week.
With Liberty being out of conference contention, the Owls are already a step closer to winning the Big South. A loss against the Flames could be the difference between 1st or 2nd place.
Players to Watch
QB Chandler Burks-Considering his play last season, Burks will likely be the starting QB in 2017.
RB Jake McKenzie-Mckenzie is a B-Back for the Owls.
DB Dorian Walker-Walker is a transfer from Georgia Tech. No doubt Kennesaw hopes he can replace the hole left by Blackmon.
Kickoff vs. Kennesaw State