RICHMOND — Wind and rain didn't keep Eastern Kentucky from its date with destiny — a chance to win the Ohio Valley Conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
A chilly 34-7 triumph over Murray State Saturday, plus Tennessee-Martin's 31-24 victory over Southeast Missouri, left both winners at 6-1 for their game in Martin next Saturday.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Tennessee State fell to 5-2 when it lost to Jacksonville State 26-21. The Tigers, with wins over Eastern and Martin, held the tiebreaker if the three teams had deadlocked.
At Roy Kidd Stadium, EKU Coach Dean Hood was proud of his offensive line after the Colonels' sixth consecutive OVC victory.
"Holy Moses, they just munched them up ... a great job," Hood said.
Eastern's offensive line was proud of C.J. Walker, their running back teammate who gained 229 yards and scored touchdowns of 16, 51 and 60 yards over the slippery grass.
"I'm proud of C.J. Skywalker," said offensive tackle Derek Hardman, who with guard Chris Krack and center Sam Reid, opened huge holes on the left side and up the middle in the first half. "We knew he could do it all year."
Walker was proud of his offensive line. "They wanted to make a point (that Eastern can run). We all wanted to send the seniors out with a bang."
The Colonels' defense also was proud for, among other things, holding Murray to 65 yards in the first half while Eastern built a 31-0 lead. Racers quarterback Jeff Ehrhardt, leading the OVC in passing-yards average in league games, was ineffective. Chris Franklin, a sophomore from Paul Dunbar, replaced him midway through the second quarter.
"We got a couple of tips (on Ehrhardt's scouting report)," EKU safety Zach Denton said. "I didn't know he was out of the game."
The way Eastern played, Hood said, Hall of Fame coach Roy Kidd could have grabbed the headphones and called the plays. "Line up and run it down their throats," said Hood of Kidd's offensive philosophy that accounted for 315 victories at Eastern.
The Colonels, 7-3 after a 1-3 start, started running all over the field on their first possession. Eastern went 55 yards in six plays, Walker running the last 16. He went up the middle, cut left and scored untouched four minutes into the game.
On his next touch, Walker sprinted 51 yards up the middle of the field for a 14-0 lead midway through the period.
Walker, a junior from Altamonte Springs, Fla., outdid himself later with a 60-yard burst up the middle.
By halftime, Walker had 196 yards on 17 carries.
Markus Thomas holds the school record with 300 yards against Marshall in 1989.
"It was good to go over 200 yards," said Walker, who was averaging 44.2 yards in EKU's first nine games.
He ran for 271 yards on 40 carries last season. This fall, the Colonels were prospering on Allan Holland's 198.9 passing yards a game. Holland was 5-for-8 for 44 yards in Saturday's windy conditions. He didn't play in the fourth quarter.
"The weather dictated the type of game plan," Hood said of Walker's success, "but we already had it in our package."
Leading the Racers' chase for Walker on his last touchdown was Murray linebacker Nathan Williams, top tackler in the Championship Subdivision.
Williams had 17 tackles, setting an MSU season record with 167 stops. The Racers have one game left.