By Don Stone,


 A record crowd of 10,108 saw KSU take on Tusculum in the 2023 season opener at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in the second Thursday night game in program history.

 The KSU student section was packed with a new student attendance record of 5,415 as the team recognized incoming freshman as part of the new Flight 27 promotion. The entire excited class ran across the field prior to the game. (Photo at left)

  The Owls, playing for the first time as an independent, had a lot of changes to work with as they make the transition to FBS and their new Conference USA in 2024.

  Part of that involved a different offense under new Offensive Coordinator Chris Klenakis. They also brought in new Defensive Coordinator Nathan Burton.

    You could see differences on offense as they moved away from the triple option into the pistol option
   “It’s a headache,” said Burton. “I call it like a windshield wiper offense. It moves this way and then that way. And, sometimes it gets stuck.”

    It was kind of stuck in the beginning as Kennesaw State was shutout 7-0 in the first quarter. From there, they outscored the Pioneers 38-0 as both sides of the ball took over.

    The defense was in quarterback Preston Roberts’ way all game holding him to 17 for 31 with just 179 yards passing. They picked him off four times and forced a fumble.

    On offense, Johnathan Murphy threw for 219 yards and ran for another 90.

    KSU showed an ability to explode with big plays. Junior WR Tykeem Wallace, who is also a sprinter on the track & field team, caught one in stride and took it 54 yards to tie the game at 7 with the Owls’ first points of the season.
Murphy broke free for a 55 yard second quarter scoring rush of his own to move the Owls up 17-7.

   The head coach’s son, Blake Bohannon had a long TD catch as well. Last year, he had his other TD for 61 yards against the UT-Martin Skyhawks. This one was for 55 yards to make it KSU 24, TU 7.

    And Davis Bryson, filling in at QB to finish the game, ran it in from 21 to ice the game at 38-7.

    The game was enhanced with the team’s first ever fireworks display at halftime sending the crowd home happy.

    The Owls continue their abbreviated 9 game season on the road next Saturday at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga to take on the Mocs. Kickoff is 6:00 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN+.