Associated Press Photo
KENT, Ohio (Sports Network) - Sparked by an opportunistic defense, the 23rd-ranked Kent State Golden Flashes prepped for the MAC championship game by stifling the Ohio Bobcats, 28-6, at Dix Stadium.
Linebacker C.J. Malauulu forced a fumble on the game's opening possession and returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown as Kent State (11-1, 8-0 MAC) extended its program-best winning streak to 10 games.
The Golden Flashes' offense was erratic at times, finishing with only 15 first downs. Spencer Keith threw for 170 yards with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, but the 24-yard scoring strike to Eric Adeyemi was one of only nine completions. Keith also had one interception.
Kent State, the East Division champ, will face No. 24 Northern Illinois in the conference title game Nov. 30 in Detroit.
Trayion Durham paced Kent State's ground attack with 97 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries.
Tyler Tettleton had 232 yards on 21-of-37 passing for the Bobcats (8-4, 4-4), who closed out the regular season on a three-game skid.
Beau Blankenship became Ohio's single-season rushing leader in the loss. The junior running back amassed 145 yards to break the record Kalvin McRae (1,434) set in 2007.
Blankenship, who now has 1,500 yards for the year, fumbled at midfield on the sixth play of the game. Luke Wollet scooped up the ball and returned it for an early touchdown.
Kent State's lead swelled to 21-0 in a 12-second span later in the first quarter.
Durham appeared to be bottled up before spinning off a defender and racing for a 15-yard touchdown. Malauulu then picked off Tettleton on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Tettleton led Ohio to a 33-yard Matt Weller field goal on its next possession, and Weller added a 41-yarder off a Keith interception in the waning moments of the first half.
The Bobcats failed to capitalize on a Dri Archer fumble in the third quarter.