RICHMOND — When there is adversity in a game, Eastern Kentucky Coach Dean Hood tells his players to embrace their chance to make the big play.
That's what Brandon Gathof did in the waning minutes of the Colonels' 16-8 win over Morehead State on Saturday night.
Eastern had a comfortable 16-0 lead before the Eagles rushed back to score a touchdown and convert a two-point try to make it interesting late in the fourth quarter.
"As soon as they scored that last touchdown, it woke everybody up," Gathof said.
Then the Eagles recovered a surprise onside kick to make it more than interesting.
"We were definitely shocked," Gathof said.
But he shook it off and was able to pick off an Evan Sawyer pass at midfield to seal the host Colonels' first win of the season in front of an announced 8,200 fans.
It also was the first win for Hood, who took over the EKU program this season.
"I feel good for the kids that they got a win even though it wasn't pretty and it wasn't exactly how we wanted it to go," he said.
Morehead State Coach Matt Ballard felt bad for his team. They were able to find their way back in the game, but couldn't find a way to win it.
"We just weren't able to make the plays," said Ballard, whose team lost its sixth straight to the Colonels. "I'm proud of our guys who gave a good effort in battling, but obviously this hurts and we're very disappointed."
Both offenses sputtered in the first half, with the Colonels knocking on the Eagles' end zone twice and having to settle for chip shot field goals (22 yards each) by Taylor Long to grab a 6-0 lead at halftime.
EKU's first drive of the game went 80 yards in 17 plays before stalling at the 5 yard line, including a drop in the end zone.
The Colonels got within 4 yards of the end zone on a drive midway through the second quarter before stalling again.
"It was very, very frustrating," C.J. Walker said of Eastern's early offensive performance. "To me, they were the better team in the first half. Our offense didn't perform to the best of its ability and that's something we have to fix."
Eastern's defense held the Eagles to 73 yards of total offense in the first half and without a play of more than 16 yards.
The Colonels' offense finally found the end zone on what was its longest run of the year to date, a 17-yard scamper by Walker with 6:15 to go in the third quarter to take a 13-0 lead over Morehead. Walker led the Eastern ground game with 58 yards on 17 carries.
EKU quarterback Allan Holland completed 15 of his 27 tries for 191 yards without an interception. On defense, Tyjaun Jones paced the Colonels with had 10 tackles.
Long added another 28-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter and give the Colonels a 16-0 advantage before Morehead rallied.
Eastern's defense seemingly had the Eagles wrapped up, but a late hit penalty gave MSU a few more tries to score, which it finally did on an 11-yard pass from Sawyer to Jerrod Pendleton. Nick Feldman led Morehead with 57 yards on the ground. He also had 18 yards on two catches.
While Eastern was happy to get its first win of the season, it understands it still has a lot of work to do.
"We've got a long ways to go," Gathof said. "A win is a win, but we know we have a lot of work to do."