RICHMOND, Ky. – The Eastern Kentucky University football team rushed for 404 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-23 win over visiting Morehead State on Thursday night in the Colonels’ season opener at Roy Kidd Stadium.
The Colonels (1-0) averaged 6.6 yards-per-carry in an electrifying ground performance. Junior Daryl McCleskey Jr. led the way with 125 yards on 14 carries. Senior LJ Scott added 86 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt junior Jason Lewis contributed 70 yards on 10 touches. Sophomore Alonzo Booth and redshirt junior Ellis Cain also added rushing touchdowns in the commanding win.
Three EKU quarterbacks saw action. Redshirt sophomore Austin Scott and redshirt freshman Dakota Allen each threw a touchdown, both to senior tight end Dan Paul.
Redshirt junior defensive lineman Aaron Patrick – a preseason All-American – terrorized the Morehead State offensive line all night, recording 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles-for-loss.
Redshirt sophomores Josh Hayes and Dillon Denault both grabbed interceptions in the win.
After a 38-yard field goal by redshirt junior Samuel Hayworth gave EKU an early 3-0 lead, an interception by Hayes at the Morehead State 38-yard line handed the Colonels another prime scoring opportunity. They capitalized, as, two plays later, Booth rumbled 23 yards for a touchdown. Booth then added a two-point conversion to make it 11-0, EKU, with 4:50 remaining in the first quarter.
Following a Morehead State punt, EKU marched down the field and scored again just before the clock ran out on the first quarter. Sophomore wideout Jaelin Carter opened the drive with a 13-yard run. LJ Scott followed that up with a 16-yard scamper.
McCleskey Jr. added runs of 16 yards and 18 yards, before LJ Scott capped it with a four-yard dive into the corner of the endzone, giving the Colonels an 18-0 advantage to start the second quarter.
Morehead State, however, responded with a scoring drive of its own midway through the second quarter. A 35-yard pass by Lawson Page to Jordan Huffman sparked the Eagles. Issiah Aguero finished the march with a two-yard TD run that made it 18-7 with 7:45 remaining in the first half.
Eastern responded by marching 81 yards on 13 plays; however, the Colonels were stuffed at the goal line and turned the ball over on downs with just under two minutes to play in the half.
EKU went into the locker room at the break up 18-7.
The Colonels really began to assert themselves in the second half. On their first possession, Allen capped a 14-play, 77-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Paul.
A sack by senior Gavin Bryant then forced Morehead State into a three-and-out, and EKU took advantage of the good field position with a touch of trickery. On the third play of the ensuing possession, sophomore quarterback Alphonso Howard took a swing pass in the backfield from Allen and then threw back across the field to Allen for a 28-yard pick-up to the Morehead State 15. Austin Scott capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Paul, making it 32-7 with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
The Colonels opened the fourth quarter with another scoring drive. LJ Scott found paydirt again on the drive, powering his way in from four yards out to make it 39-7.
After Morehead State added consecutive late touchdowns, Cain capped the scoring for the night with a nine-yard rushing touchdown to make it 49-23 with 2:36 remaining.
Eastern returns to action next Saturday, September 8, at Marshall. Kickoff from Huntington is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
– Phillip Richards, freshman punter from Australia, competed in his first American football game. His longest punt of the night went 43 yards.
– Samuel Hayworth notched a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter, the first of his career.
– Josh Hayes recorded his first interception as a Colonel in the first quarter. Hayes intercepted the Colonels in 2016 when he played for Purdue University.
– Alonzo Booth’s 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter was the first of his career.
– Dan Paul caught two catches for six points apiece, giving him three career touchdowns.
– Dillon Denault caught a tipped pass in the third quarter for the first interception of his career.
– The 404-yard rushing effort was the first time the Colonels eclipsed the 400-yards rushing mark since August 28th, 2014, when they ran for 407 at Robert Morris University.