Dri Archer’s legend just keeps growing.
Kent State’s junior blur produced two of his most spine-tingling runs of the season during Saturday’s MAC East Division title-clinching 31-24 victory over Bowling Green, jaunts of 79 and 74 yards that left Golden Flashes fans and foes alike shaking their heads in amazement.
“He made our guys miss, just like he makes everybody miss,” said Bowling Green coach head Dave Clawson.
Archer, who rushed for a career-high 241 yards on 17 carries and scored twice to increase his school record TD total to 21 on the season, now has four touchdown runs of 60 yards or more this season.
But while everyone who witnessed Saturday’s game will talk about the incredible TD jaunts, and deservedly so, some of Archer’s most pivotal runs came between the tackles and didn’t produce points.
Archer was forced to carry the bulk of the rushing load because of an injury to fellow backfield star Trayion Durham, who suffered a hip injury in the third quarter and did not return. Even before the injury Durham (10 carries, 20 yards), who missed practice throughout the week after taking a helmet to the quad last Saturday at Miami, was having difficulty finding room to run against a staunch Falcons rush defense.
Typically the Flashes turn games over to the 250-pound hammer Durham in the fourth quarter, but this time they had to rely on Archer exclusively down the stretch.
“I told Dri today I don’t care how many times you have to carry it, you gotta just go,” said KSU coach Darrell Hazell. “And we need your best in the fourth quarter.”
Archer delivered, rushing nine times for 104 yards in the decisive final period to help Kent State pull away from a 17-17 tie heading into the final stanza.
Seventy-four of those yards came on his first carry, when he shook a couple of head-high tackles at midfield and exploded out of a pack before racing down the middle of the field for a touchdown that gave Kent State a brief 24-17 lead.
That TD jaunt even impressed the ever-humble Archer.
“Yeah, it was probably one of my most exciting runs so far this season,” he said with a smile. “I just didn’t want to get tackled. I was fighting more than (the BG defender) was.”
However, that score was answered immediately for the second time on the day by a lengthy Matt Schilz-to-Chris Gallon TD pass, this one covering 81 yards.
The Archer runs that Bowling Green could not answer were of the much shorter variety.
After an interception by junior defensive end Richard Gray gave Kent State the ball at the BG 20, Archer blasted away inside for carries of four, six and three yards to set up senior quarterback Spencer Keith’s game-winning 7-yard touchdown run off a fake handoff to Archer.
Archer certainly didn’t mind the extra work.
“(Durham) has been banged up all week. Coach (Hazell) was telling me all week I’m gonna have to do more, so I was ready,” he said.
Archer, who has been clocked as low as 4.21 in the 40-yard dash and consistently runs in the 4.2s, certainly isn’t one of those speed backs who ducks contact whenever possible. He’s put on some weight, going from 155 pounds as a freshman to 175 as a junior, and doesn’t mind using his sturdy 5-foot-8 frame to barrel through tacklers when necessary.
“If I need to get my nose dirty, I’ll get my nose dirty on those short-yardage plays,” he said, smiling once again.
With Archer carrying the load, the Flashes rushed for 334 yards on 42 carries against a Bowling Green rush defense that entered the contest ranked first in the MAC, allowing just 103.7 yards per game on the ground.
Archer has now rushed for 1,284 yards this season on just 125 carries. He surpassed 1,000 yards last week on just his 103rd carry of the year, and now averages an unheard of 10.3 yards per rush.
Most importantly, Archer carried the load when the Flashes needed him most.
“It’s definitely the biggest day of my football career,” said Archer. “The offensive line did a great job of opening holes, and I just had to read it. I’m proud of my teammates.”