Indiana State climbs out of 16-0 hole to knock Eastern Kentucky out of FCS playoffs, 36-16

Indiana State wide receiver A.J Johnson (9) escaped EKU defensive back Kiante Northington on Saturday. Johnson caught seven passes for 71 yards.
Indiana State wide receiver A.J Johnson (9) escaped EKU defensive back Kiante Northington on Saturday. Johnson caught seven passes for 71 yards. Herald-Leader

Poof! Just like that, Eastern Kentucky's great year turned into a merely good year.

Indiana State scored 36 consecutive points to whip EKU 36-16 in Saturday's first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at Roy Kidd Stadium.

"I just hurt for the seniors. That's the big thing, is their career is over," Colonels Coach Dean Hood said. "(I) just let them know that this isn't the end of it, as far as our relationship. We're here for them. We don't graduate guys out of the program and leave them.

"We send them out into the world and our goal is to have them be equipped as authentic men, and be good husbands and good dads and good neighbors and good leaders in their community, and good employers. Just let them know that we love them and we'll be here for them. We're just another extension of their family now. This is the end of their football; it's not the end of our relationship. They're a Colonel for life."

No. 18 EKU (9-4) was making its 21st playoff appearance, second-most in FCS history to Montana (23). Indiana State was playing in its first playoff since 1984.

No. 21 ISU (8-5) will play at eighth-seeded Chattanooga next Saturday at 1 p.m.

"We had a good year," Hood said. "Had a great opportunity right here in front of us to make it a great year, but got outcoached and outplayed, so now we're sitting with a good year and that's the end of it, and turn in your gear."

The Colonels, who haven't had a postseason win since 1994, have lost seven straight playoff games.

Indiana State rolled up 456 yards of offense, all but 49 yards coming through the air. EKU gained 315 yards.

EKU, taking advantage of a 21 mph wind at its back in the first quarter, scored on its first four possessions to take a 16-0 lead.

Andrew Lloyd booted field goals of 21, 31 and (into-the-wind) 20 yards. Dy'Shawn Mobley ran 17 yards for a TD.

Mobley, Offensive Player of the Year in the Ohio Valley Conference, finished with 96 yards on 22 carries.

"I think our team just hung in there," ISU Coach Mike Sanford said. "The great thing about this game is our first half was a little bit of a struggle, and our team believed in each other. We believed we were going to win. We kept fighting. We stayed together. There was no negative energy."

The Sycamores pulled to within 16-7 at intermission, scoring on a 4-yard pass from Mike Perish to Robert Tonyan Jr. with two seconds left.

"That was a big play," Perish said. "It was a great play by Rob and great protection by our offensive line. I had about five seconds for Rob to get open, and if you give him that much time he's going to get open."

The Sycamores then came out in the third quarter and, with the wind at their back, put up 24 points. Perish, who finished 41 of 57 for 407 yards, threw for 165 in the third quarter alone.

"The wind was a huge part of the game, and in the first quarter we had it and we just didn't make enough hay — we went down and kicked field goals," Hood said. "The third quarter, they had it and they went down and scored. And just didn't make them punt enough times. In the first half, it was good because we really made them punt several times into the wind."

A 48-yard field goal by Eric Heidorn started the third-quarter scoring spree.

Perish then hit Kyani Harris for a 57-yard scoring play and Gary Owens for a 38-yarder.

Mark Sewall capped the quarter, returning an interception 48 yards for a score.

"I was just playing in the middle of the field," Sewall said. "I got my eyes to the quarterback and I saw an in-breaking route coming; got my eyes to the quarterback and saw that he threw it. I made a pretty good break on the ball and then had some good blocking going up the sideline."

The Sycamores added a fourth-quarter safety and a field goal.