KENT, Ohio - On a night when Kent State University honored its last bowl team and only Mid-American Conference championship football team, the Golden Flashes took a first step toward regaining the status achieved by that 1972 squad.
Kent State, under second-year coach Darrell Hazell, clobbered visiting Towson 41-21 in front 15,121 at Dix Stadium Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
"I thought our offense did enough early to make it a lopsided game and put a little bit more pressure on their team," Hazell said. "I'm happy for the win, but I know there are a lot of things we need to improve upon. That's just one game."
The Golden Flashes, aiming to better last year's 5-7 record, were sparked by speedster Dri Archer, who scored three touchdowns and set up a fourth.
"Your angles better be awful steep when he's got the ball because he's fast," Hazell said. "He doesn't look like he's running."
Hazell noted it's important not to overuse Archer.
"It's about longevity," he said. "I think we have to be very smart how we use him so we have him for 12 weeks or if we're fortunate to go longer."
The Laurel, Fla., junior had two kick returns for 155 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown, to go along with touchdown runs of 15 and 18 yards.
"It was a big momentum changer," Archer said about his 98-yarder. "I didn't get touched the whole time."
Kent State senior quarterback Spencer Keith, who won a closely contested battle to remain the starter, completed 10 of 19 throws for 82 yards and added a rushing touchdown.
Kent State reserve junior quarterback David Fisher connected with true freshman Josh Boyle on a 63-yard scoring pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Flashes' senior kicker, Freddy Cortez, who has 36 career field goals, was shaken up in the third quarter on a running-into-the-kicker penalty. But he returned to kick two extra points.
Kent State's defense, led by junior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, forced six Towson turnovers - four fumbles and two interceptions. As a freshman, Nix was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
"I think Towson has a lot of players that can hurt you, but I thought our defense stifled those guys," Hazell said.
"We want to win the turnover margin every game," said Kent State senior defensive back Norman Wolfe Jr., who had one interception and a pass break-up and forced a fumble.
The Golden Flashes limited Towson, an FCS team, to 186 yards of total offense through three quarters. Towson senior quarterback Grant Enders finished 26-of-36 passing for 246 yards and a late-game scoring strike.
"At least nobody died," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "We were beaten in all facets of the game."
Sophomore Terrance West had two touchdown runs for the Tigers.
Kent State scored a touchdown on the game's first possession, marching 43 yards after a 60-yard kick return by Archer. The Flashes converted on 4th-and-1 at the Towson 9-yard line, and Keith finished off an 11-play drive with a 5-yard scoring run.
Following a Towson fumble on its own 34, Kent State increased its lead to 14-0 on a 15-yard run by Archer down the left sideline at 6:37 of the first quarter.
The Tigers coughed up the ensuing kick return and Kent State took advantage to take a 17-0 lead on Cortez's 35-yard field goal with 4:28 still left in the opening quarter.
Cortez missed wide right on a 43-yard field goal attempt at 7:59 of the second quarter.
After two fumbles and a punt, Towson finally put together a sustained drive, going 74 yards, capped by an 8-yard touchdown run by Terrance West with 1:51 left until halftime.
That reduced the margin to 17-7, but Archer took the Towson kickoff back 98 yards untouched for a touchdown to run the score to 24-7 at 1:39 of the second quarter.
Enders then was intercepted by Wolfe - Towson's third turnover of the half - but the Flashes had to punt.
The half ended with a blooper to remember when Kent State's Andre Parker ran 50 yards in the wrong direction after a Towson player inadvertently touched a bouncing punt at his own 12.
The ball, however, was brought back to the Tigers' 12, where the muff was first recovered, with 17 seconds left until half. Kent State took a 27-7 lead on Cortez's 22-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
NOTES: Kent State recognized its 1972 team on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of its accomplishments. Fifty players and coaches were present, including head coach Don James, current Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel and KSU football-track star Gerald Tinker, who won an Olympic sprint gold medal at the 1972 Munich Summer Games. NFL Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, who was captain of the '72 team, was on campus earlier in the week. Current Alabama head coach Nick Saban, a three-year KSU letter winner, was unable to attend ... The Golden Flashes have their sights set on a bowl berth in 2012, which would be the program's first since a Tangerine Bowl appearance by the 1972 squad ... The Flashes' last winning season came in 2001 (6-5 under Dean Pees) ...Towson came into the contest as the defending champions of the Colonial Athletic Conference; however, the Tigers have never beaten an FBS or major-college opponent (0-5).