RICHMOND, Ky. – In its first Thursday night season-opener in 13 years, the Eastern Kentucky University football team rolled to a 38-6 win over visiting Robert Morris.
The 19th-ranked Colonels (1-0) scored on four of their first five possessions to take a 28-6 lead at halftime. The Eastern defense began the second half with an interception in its own territory and held the Colonials (0-1) on downs on their next two possessions to put the game away.
Junior quarterback Jared McClain had a hand in four of Eastern’s five touchdowns, throwing for two and running for two more. McClain accumulated 232 yards of offense combined passing (155), rushing (44) and receiving (33). The Hiram, Ga., native completed 16-of-21 passes, ran the ball 12 times and caught one pass.
The Colonels wasted little time putting seven on the new Daktronics video board at Roy Kidd Stadium. McClain capped EKU’s first possession with a 10-yard scoring pass to senior Ike Ariguzo. McClain took care of business himself on Eastern’s next possession, taking it in from a yard out for a 14-0 lead.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, McClain rolled out and found a wide open senior tight end Nathan Watts from two yards out for his second passing score of the game. The extra-point made it 21-0 in favor of the home team.
Robert Morris closed the gap to 21-6 with a 20-yard scoring pass from Paul Jones to Alex Caratelli inside of two minutes to go in the first half. The extra-point was blocked, Eastern’s second blocked kick of the game.
EKU was not done with its first half scoring. The Colonels drove 73 yards on eight plays in 1:54 to make it 28-6 at the break. McClain completed passes of eight and 33 yards, and ran for 18 during the drive. Junior Caleb Watkins took the hand-off from two yards out and finished the drive with his first collegiate touchdown.
McClain completed 12 of his 15 first half pass attempts for 118 yards.
Robert Morris opened the second half with a drive into Eastern territory in attempt to get back into the game, but redshirt freshman Jason Fergerson deflected a pass right into the hands of sophomore Johnny Joseph at the EKU 22-yard line to end that threat.
After the Colonel defense held the Colonials on downs on their next possession, the Eastern offense put together a methodical scoring drive that began with 4:48 left in the third and ended with 14:21 showing on the clock in the fourth quarter. EKU ran the ball eight times for 37 yards and attempted four passes that covered 34 yards. McClain’s eight-yard touchdown run polished off the drive.
Eastern Kentucky totaled 401 yards of offense, with 207 coming on the ground. Robert Morris ran for just 55 yards.
Redshirt freshman Jared Sanders rushed for 53 yards on eight carries for EKU while fellow redshirt freshman JJ Jude had 50 yards on nine carries. Watkins finished with 39 yards on nine carries.
RMU’s Jones was 16-of-28 through the air for 177 yards. The Penn state transfer had one interception and one touchdown pass. Deontae Howard led the Colonials with 58 yards on 13 carries.
The Colonels next play at Louisville on Saturday, Sept. 7. The Cardinals are ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason FBS polls.
–EKU was second nationally (FCS) in turnover margin last year at +19. The Colonels were +2 against Robert Morris tonight.
–The Colonels averaged 205.7 yards per game on the ground in 2012. Eastern rolled up 207 rushing yards in its season opener.
–This was the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the two teams.
–In its 45th season playing at Roy Kidd Stadium, Eastern Kentucky improved to 205-46-1 all-time at home.