NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) member Kennesaw State saw a much different Reinhardt team on Thursday night than it did two years ago, as the eighth-ranked Eagles gave the FCS' 20th-ranked squad all it could handle in a 35-25 defeat inside Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Reinhardt may have started the season 0-1, but the hometown squad rose to the occasion on a national stage under the lights against a strong FCS opponent.
Billy Hall shined in his second start against the Owls on their home turf, as the senior signal-caller accounted for four touchdowns – two through the air (both to Navarie Solomon) – and two more on the ground.
The Scott, Tenn., native went 12-for-18 for 90 yards with two scores and an interception while rushing for 128 more on just 10 carries.
Solomon had 83 yards on seven receptions.
Kennesaw State was able to take a 7-0 lead on its first drive of the night, but then Dylan Kelly put his team right back in scoring position thanks to a 52-yard kickoff return capped off by a facemask penalty. Two plays later, both completions to Solomon, the Eagles got into the end zone on a double move for a 7-7 score less than five minutes into the night.
The Owls took the ensuing kickoff and went 74 yards in 12 plays (in 6:29) to regain a touchdown lead at 14-7.
Both teams settled down on the defensive end in the second period as the scoreboard didn't move again until right before the break. Reinhardt looked to be potentially on the way to more points right before halftime until a crucial illegal block was called to negate a first down in Kennesaw State territory.
The Owls would then take advantage and drive the ball down the field and score a fourth-down touchdown on a 1-yard rush with just 19 seconds remaining.
Momentum would swing back to the visitors' sideline in the third quarter after Kennesaw State's opening drive out of the locker room resulted in a missed field goal. On the very next play, Hall raced through the middle of the Owl defense and scored an 80-yard touchdown – his career long run – after connecting with the front-left pylon.
A missed extra point made the score, 21-13.
The hosts would respond with another touchdown (28-13), but the Eagles didn't go away, as they went 71 yards on the next possession to score again on a Solomon over-the-head catch in the corner of the end zone from 22 yards out on third down.
Momentum was slowed after yet another missed PAT kept the score at 28-19.
Reinhardt's defense stepped up to the challenge and forced a punt, but Hall was intercepted on the very next snap as the clock turned to the fourth quarter. Once again, Kennesaw State took advantage of the opportunity and crossed the goal line for a 16-point advantage at 35-19.
The Eagles would later get back within 10 points after a snap went over the punter's head and resulted in the hometown club getting the ball in the red zone inside the 10-yard-line.
Hall would call his own number three times for another score from 1-yard out.
Reinhardt had 261 total yards with 171 on the ground.
All-American defensive end Teon Burroughs led the squad with 11 tackles. Kenneth Lowery was next in line with 10 stops, while three others tallied eight apiece.
Reinhardt now turns its attention to Warner (Fla.) in its home opener at Ken White Field at University Stadium on Sept. 11.
Kickoff is set for Noon.
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