COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Kennesaw State at Georgia Tech

ATLANTA, GA SEPTEMBER 11: Kennesaw State quarterback Xavier Shepherd (8) drops back to pass during the NCAA football game between the Kennesaw State Owls and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on September 11th, 2021 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Xavier Shepherd rushed for 118 yards, scoring a season-high four touchdowns and Kennesaw State opened the Big South title showdown with three unanswered rushing TDs to roll past Monmouth 49-17 on Saturday.

The Owls (10-1, 7-0), ranked fifth in the FCS coaches poll, won their third Big South championship in the past five seasons, with the first 7-0 finish in the Big South. Kennesaw State earned the conference's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, ending on a ninth straight win.

Monmouth (7-4, 6-1), ranked No. 24, now awaits an at-large bid. The Hawks, who'd won the three previous conference titles, came in allowing 103.7 yards per game rushing. Kennesaw State piled up 471 yards on the ground and another 100 through the air.

Tony Muskett completed 28 of 43 passes for 337 yards and a touchdown for Monmouth, but the Hawks gained just 30 on the ground, punted four times, turned the ball over on downs three times and picked up 337 yards of offense.

Shepherd scored from the 9 on the game-opening drive, adding touchdowns of 4, 1 and 1 yards. Adeolu Adelke scored on a 61-yard burst, and Iaan Cousin gained 114 yards on three carries with a 38-yard TD.

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