HAMPTON, Va. (HamptonPirates.com) - Xavier Shepherd ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for 109 yards as 17th-ranked Kennesaw State defeated Hampton 34-15 at Armstrong Stadium in the Big South Conference opener for both teams on Saturday.
The Owls took the opening possession and went 51 yards before being held to a 35-yard field goal from Nathan Robertson for an early 3-0 lead with 7:49 left. Late in the first quarter the rains hit and turnovers began popping up for both teams. Hampton recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchback, then turned the ball over on the ensuing play.
That turnover got the Owls possession on the Hampton 25 and five plays later, Shepherd scored his first touchdown on the day with a three-yard plunge for a 10-0 advantage with 13:47 left in the half.
The lead grew to 17-0 as Hampton forced a fourth and two from its 36, but the Owls responded with an Iaan Cousin 36-yard scamper around the right end with 3:32 remaining.
Hampton got on the board on its next possession as Jett Duffey found Hezekiah Grimsley for a 41-yard scoring strike to finish off a 78-yard, seven play drive with 71 seconds left as Hampton trailed 17-6. The Owls pushed the lead to 20-6 at the halftime horn as Robertson hit from 32 yards.
The Pirates got on the board to start the second half as Axel Perez hit a 22-yard field goal as the Pirates took four and a half minutes off the clock with a 10-play, 70-yard drive. Kennesaw answered behind the legs of Shepherd finishing off a 75-yard drive with a five-yard run to push the lead to 27-9 with 3:48 left in the third.
Shepherd scored his final touchdown early in the fourth with a three-yard run to take the lead to 34-9 with 12:57 on the clock. Hampton answered to close out the scoring on an 84-yard, 12-play drive capped by a Christofer Zellous 14-yard completion to Jarrett Powell with 5:27 remaining.
Keyondre White topped Hampton on the ground with 47 yards, while Elijah Burris had 36. Duffey was 11-of-16 for 128 yards and one touchdown, while Jadakis Bonds caught a team-high five passes for 68 yards. DeAndre Faulk had a team-high 13 tackles, while Mason King had 11 with three forced fumbles.
Hampton now heads to Charleston Southern on October 16 for a 6pm start in Charleston, S.C.