The Kennesaw State Owls made a big statement on Saturday. They took on the Davidson Wildcats in the first round of the FCS playoffs and earned a 48-21 victory. The Owls have won five playoff games since launching the program in 2015 and have advanced to the second round in each of the four seasons they have reached postseason play.
The Owls (11-1) got the scoring started early when quarterback Xavier Shepherd scored on a 6-yard run early in the first quarter. The scoring drive was set up when KSU recovered a Davidson fumble on the second play of the game.
From there the Owls would increase their lead to 14 later in the quarter when Shepherd scored on a 1-yard run. And after stopping a Davidson drive, running back Gabriel Benyard returned a punt for a 63-yard touchdown to increase KSU’s lead to 20 (missed extra point). It’s the first punt return for a TD in school history.
Davidson (8-3) would score on the ensuing drive when running back Dylan Sparks scored on a 54-yard touchdown run. But the Owls would respond early in the second quarter when running back Iaan Cousin scored on a 10-yard run to give the Owls’ the 20-point lead again. Davidson would score again on the next drive when running back Coy Williams ran for a 61-yard touchdown.
The Owls would respond with a Shepherd 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second. They would add another score before halftime when Shepherd threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Xavier Hill to make the score 41-14. That scoring drive was made possible when defensive back Markeith Montgomery intercepted a Davidson pass in the end zone.
Davidson’s final scoring drive of the game came off of a KSU turnover early in the third quarter. Shepherd fumbled the pitch in the opening drive, leading to Davidson’s Jalen Jefferson recovering the ball and returning it for a 45-yard score. However, the Owls would ice the game on the ensuing drive when Shepherd scored on a 2-yard run.
The Owls finished the game with 305 rushing yards and limited Davidson, the No. 1 rushing offense in the FCS, to just 217 yards on the ground. Shepherd, the Big South Offensive Player of the Year, finished the day with 115 passing yards, and five total touchdowns. Montgomery posted eight total tackles to go along with his interception.
KSU will face ETSU in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. This will be the third time the two schools will battle on the field, with the most previous meeting occurring in 2016.