KENT, Ohio — When he caught the ball at the UB 9, peeled away and headed up field, it appeared Khalil Mack was about to gallop 91 yards with yet another Pick Six.
Only Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon stood between Mack and the distant end zone. What chance could a 200-pound redshirt freshman quarterback have against a 250-pound senior linebacker who hates the thought of being denied let alone the act of being denied?
But Reardon did his job. He got in the way. He made Mack change direction. And that enabled running back Traylon Durham to tackle Mack from behind and limit the return to 45 yards.
Not that it mattered in the big picture. UB scored four plays later to open a 20-7 halftime lead en route to a 41-21 victory, its fourth straight at Dix Stadium.
It was Mack’s fourth career interception. His first, against Stony Brook two years ago, was returned for a touchdown negated by an excessive celebration penalty (although Mack still considers it a TD return). He has honest-to-goodness picks for touchdowns in the season opener against Ohio State and last week against UMass. This was, it can be agreed, the first time he was tackled following a pick.
“I blame Branden Oliver for that one,” Mack said. “He didn’t teach me how to run up the sideline. I got to go look at film and evaluate that.”
Mack has disarmed opposing quarterbacks on each of his last two picks, gliding into the picture from nowhere. On this one he made a one-handed catch.
“I was reading him,” Mack said. “I can’t tell y’all exactly what we’re doing on that exact play but the scheme was to get off flat and see if he would throw us the ball, and he did.”
Mack had 10 tackles on the day, tying Derek Brim for the team lead. He also had a sack, his 25th career, giving him sole possession of the school career mark.
UB’s defense took another injury hit when leading tackler Adam Redden left in the second quarter with a knee issue and missed the remainder of the game. He’ll undergo further examination to determine the extent of the injury.
Redden came in as UB’s leader in solo (25) and total (49) tackles. He’s second to Mack in tackles for loss (8.5) and third in sacks with 3.5. He twice has been named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week, most recently off last week’s victory over UMass.
UB had an extra point attempt blocked for the third time this season following the game’s first touchdown. Kicker Patrick Clarke had no chance as the Golden Flashes broke straight up the middle. The line tightened up from there. ... Wideout Devin Hughes has played a less significant role in the offense this season but sprung free for a 30-yard fourth-quarter touchdown catch. Hughes broke free between the hashes and hauled in the Joe Licata pass in the back half of the end zone. It was just Hughes’s fourth reception of the season. ... Cortney Lester produced his third interception of the season in the third quarter as Reardon unleashed a long, errant throw with Mack bearing down. ... UB’s first touchdown drive covered 80 yards in 13 plays. Its next five TD drives were all four plays or less.
The Bulls were without linebacker Blake Bean (foot), defensive and Colby Way (knee) and quarterback Alex Zordich (concussion). The three could be back for the Nov. 5 game against Ohio. Guard Jasen Carlson (leg surgery) and linebacker Nick Gilbo (knee) are out for the season. ... Dix Stadium was built in 1969 at a cost of $3.5 million. It was known as Memorial Stadium until 1971, where it was renamed in honor of a member of the board of trustees. The stadium has undergone numerous and significant renovations but the biggest asset for the program is the adjacent Kent State Field House, which affords the football team an indoor practice facility. It was built in 1990 for $6 million.