RICHMOND — Roy Kidd Stadium must have looked like a gourmet bakery to the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
EKU grabbed three savory turnovers, getting a touchdown out of each, en route to a 33-22 victory over Tennessee State before a homecoming crowd of 10,800.
The defense, coming up with a turnover for an eighth game in a row, was complemented by the Colonels' unstoppable ground game.
Matt Denham rushed 35 times for a career-high 226 yards and two touchdowns as EKU outgained the Tigers 375-65 on the ground.
The win moves EKU (4-3) into a tie for second place in the Ohio Valley Conference at 3-1, along with Tennessee Tech. Jacksonville State, which lost at Kentucky, leads the OVC at 4-0.
EKU Coach Dean Hood, who served under Jim Grobe at Ohio University and Wake Forest, absorbed a basic lesson from his mentor.
"Coach Grobe taught me that ... football really hasn't changed in 100 years," Hood said. "If you can run the ball and you can stop the run, and you can protect the ball offensively and take it away on defense, and play good special teams, you're going to win a lot of football games."
EKU trailed only briefly, on Jamen Godfrey's 48-yard field goal less than three minutes in and wound up with its fifth straight homecoming win. The Colonels are 13-1 in OVC home games under Hood, winning the last eight.
Denham, a junior who began his collegiate career at Kentucky, took over the load for Eastern in the absence of Jeremiah Williams, who went down with a season-ending knee injury a week earlier.
"Losing Jeremiah is a big, big hit," Hood said. "But it's 'next man up,' and we had guys step up. H.B. (Banjoman) stepped up. 'Lumpy' (Kyle Lumpkin) stepped up."
And Denham stepped up.
"You get more carries, a lot more touches in the game, and you're expected to produce more when you're in the game," Denham said of being the No. 1 back. "It's a lot more pressure on my back, and I think I handled it pretty well."
On its second possession, Tennessee State (3-5, 2-3) drove from its 23 to the EKU 24. There, on fourth-and-1, EKU's Justin Bell stepped in front of a short pass and returned it 79 yards for a score.
"My coverage, I abandoned it, and I stepped in front," said Bell, a cousin of NFL and former EKU standout Yeremiah Bell. "When I caught it, I thought I (was going to drop) it because I was fumbling a little bit. Then I just took it to the house."
That was the first career interception thrown by Devin Wilson, who had 137 previous attempts.
Another Godfrey field goal cut the score to 7-6, but EKU led 14-6 at halftime thanks to another big play on defense.
Brooklyn Fox picked up a TSU fumble and rumbled 22 yards to the Tigers' 15.
On third down from the 13, T.J. Pryor floated a pass to Tyrone Goard in the back of the end zone, just 34 seconds before intermission.
TSU Coach Rod Reed argued in vain that Goard didn't come down in bounds.
"When I went up and I came down, I was like, 'Man, I hope I at least got the tip of my toe in' because I figured once I came down, my foot was going to be out regardless," Goard said. "Obviously, the ref in the back of the end zone seen me get the tip of my toe in and called a touchdown for me."
EKU's lone turnover — a Denham fumble — led to a 2-yard touchdown run by TSU's Danté Thomas with 8:04 left in the third quarter.
Leading 14-13, EKU came back to score right away.
The biggest play on a seven-play, 80-yard drive was a 50-yard end-around sprint by Goard to the Tigers' 6. Cameron Bailey, on the outside, threw the key block.
Two plays later, Jeremy Jones blocked with similar results to pave the way for a 4-yard Denham score and a 21-13 lead.
Moments later, the Colonels got the ball on TSU's 13, a result of Kevin Hamlin's 32-yard interception return.
That led to Banjoman's 1-yard TD run with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
Godfrey's third field goal and an 89-yard touchdown by Calvin McNairl off a short pass from Jeremy Perry rallied the visitors to within five, 27-22, with 7:56 left.
Denham got the final word, taking an option pitch from Pryor around the left end for a 29-yard touchdwon with 4:53 left.
"I was telling T.J. not to pitch it because there was a guy right in front of my face, and I was scared I was going to fumble again," Denham said. "... He pitched it anyway ... . I somehow squeezed out of it and scored."
■ EKU ranks first in the OVC in fewest turnovers lost (9). ... The Colonels are the only OVC team to have held all opponents under 30 points. ... Denham's previous high rushing total of 216 yards came Oct. 8 at Eastern Illinois. ... With 29 yards on nine rushes, Pryor has exactly 1,000 career yards on the ground.