EKU beats Missouri State in home opener

EKU defensive tackle Robert Knowles sacked Missouri State quarterback Trevor Wooden in the first half. Wooden passed for 262 yards and ran for 71 yards.
EKU defensive tackle Robert Knowles sacked Missouri State quarterback Trevor Wooden in the first half. Wooden passed for 262 yards and ran for 71 yards.

RICHMOND — No herbs or spices were involved in the Colonels' secret recipe for success Saturday.

The Eastern Kentucky Colonels mixed a powerful running attack with a dash of passing, a splash of special-teams magic and a heaping tablespoon of defense to win their college football home opener at Roy Kidd Stadium 28-24 over Missouri State.

Jeremiah Williams, a junior-college transfer, led EKU's ground assault with 119 yards on 24 carries, including scores of 7 and 12 yards.

"It means a lot to me," Williams said of topping 100 yards. "My first home game at EKU, with a 'W' — a win."

Junior quarterback T.J. Pryor, who missed last week's season opener at Kansas State because of a hand injury, added 69 yards towards EKU's 245-yard rushing total. And he went 14 for 22 passing, good for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Jeremy Caldwell came up with the big special-teams play, running back a fourth-quarter kickoff for an 88-yard touchdown.

"I really thought that we were a better running team than what we showed at Kansas State," said Coach Dean Hood, whose Colonels ran for only 10 yards in a 10-7 loss. "I just thought Kansas State was really good defensively. ... That's what we've been saying all along is 'we think we're pretty good running the football, and we like our tight ends.''

"I'm just happy that that proved to be the case instead of me looking like an idiot stick and not being able to run the ball tonight."

The Colonels (1-1) won their third consecutive home opener and their sixth in a row at home overall.

Missouri State (0-2), which beat EKU 31-9 last year, has lost nine consecutive road games.

EKU led 14-0 at halftime, scoring on a 33-yard pass from Pryor to Chris Moore and a 7-yard run by Williams.

Moore's score capped the opening drive of the game.

EKU, operating a hurry-up, no-huddle offense, moved 75 yards in eight plays. The score came on a fourth-and-two play-action call. Pryor found Moore wide open near the 5-yard line.

"I thought we had them off-balance with some tempo," Hood said, "and the line was munching them."

Pryor said that watching from the sideline a week earlier was "a heartbreak," but he was ready to go Saturday.

"I was just so excited," he said. "I wanted to get out there. Home crowd. First win. It was a good feeling."

EKU missed a 48-yard field-goal try with 10:43 left in the half. The Colonels soon had the ball again, though.

Ichiro Vance, who led EKU with 19 tackles, hit Bears quarterback Trevor Wooden to force a fumble. Caldwell scooped up the ball and ran 23 yards to the MSU 26.

Four plays later, from the 7, Williams took the ball up the middle. Stymied near the 5, he bounced out wide left and found the end zone.

EKU had one more chance to score late in the half. However, on fourth-and-one at the Bears 13, a fake field goal resulted in a fumbled pitch.

The Bears came out and scored on their first three possessions of the second half.

Wooden, who finished with 262 passing yards and 71 rushing, scored on a 2-yard run to make it a 14-7 game.

After an EKU punt, Missouri State pulled to within 14-10 on Austin Witmer's 18-yard field goal with 14:12 left in the game.

EKU had been using a "shell game" kick return for much of the game, with three or four return men converging and then fanning out on different routes to confuse the coverage team.

This time, though, Caldwell took the kickoff on his 12-yard line and split the defense right up the middle, then angled toward the sideline to his left as he sprinted to the end zone.

"I told coach 'give me the ball.' ... We were doing the shell game, but that kicker put so much air under it we didn't have time to run it," Caldwell said.

The Bears came back on the next play from scrimmage. Wooden found Jermaine Saffold for a 71-yard touchdown bomb — one of six Saffold catches that netted 126 yards.

Williams gave EKU a 28-17 cushion with 3:55 left, running off left tackle for a 12-yard score.

Saffold tallied on a 9-yard reception with 1:54 left, making it 28-24.

Caldwell snared the ensuing pooch kickoff, and the Colonels ran out the clock.

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