RICHMOND, Ky. – The Eastern Kentucky University football team opened Ohio Valley Conference play with a 23-14 win over Southeast Missouri on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.
EKU (2-2, 1-0 OVC) forced SEMO (2-2, 0-1 OVC) into five turnovers on the night, intercepting quarterback Daniel Santacaterina four times.
Offensively, the Colonels lived up to their billing as the top rushing team in the OVC, carving out 259 yards on the ground. Junior Daryl McCleskey Jr. led the ground attack with 91 yards, while senior LJ Scott added 71 yards and a touchdown.
Junior placekicker Samuel Hayworth continued his outstanding start to the year, converting field goals of 29 yards, 41 yards and 41 yards.
On Southeast Missouri’s opening drive, junior Ben Bascom ignited the Colonels by picking off a 3rd-and-11 pass at the SEMO 43-yard line. Freshman quarterback Dakota Allen and the EKU offense responded by marching into the red zone and setting up a 29-yard field goal by Hayworth.
SEMO promptly answered the EKU score by driving 75 yards on six plays, capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass from Santacaterina to Zack Smith with 6:43 remaining in the first quarter.
In the waning seconds of the first quarter, LJ Scott ripped off a 46-yard run to the SEMO six-yard line. On the very first play of the second quarter, Scott took it in from two yards out to give the Colonels a 10-7 lead.
Scott’s touchdown proved to be the lone score of the second quarter. Senior Cornelius Floyd and junior Leodis Moore III both picked off Santacaternia over the final 15 minutes of the first half; however, the Colonel offense could convert neither turnover into points.
EKU went into the locker room at halftime up 10-7.
On Southeast Missouri’s first drive of the second half, the Redhawks went for it on 4th-and-6 at the EKU 36; however, senior linebacker Gavin Bryant stuffed SEMO wideout Richie Eisenhart one yard shy of the first down.
The Colonels took advantage of the turnover on downs, thanks to a bit of trickery. After driving to the SEMO 14-yard line, EKU ran out Hayworth to attempt a 31-yard field goal on 4th-and-3. The holder, however, was sophomore quarterback Austin Scott, who took the snap, rolled out and found senior tight end Dan Paul wide open for a 14-yard touchdown. The fake field goal gave EKU a 17-7 advantage with 5:59 left in the third quarter.
Southeast Missouri got its own turnover on downs with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, and the Redhawks capitalized, marching 54 yards on 10 plays and punching it in from one yard out to cut EKU’s lead to 17-14 early in the fourth quarter.
On the Colonels’ next possession, sophomore quarterback Alphonso Howard busted a 31-yard run to help set up a 41-yard field goal by Hayworth, giving Eastern a 20-14 lead with 9:11 on the clock.
SEMO drove deep into EKU territory on its ensuing drive; however, Floyd came up with another big interception at the Colonel 16-yard line to swing the momentum with 6:28 remaining.
Eastern punted with 3:34 on the clock, but SEMO returner Zack Smith fumbled and sophomore Alex Cabrera pounced on the ball to give the Colonels new life. They capitalized by driving to the SEMO 24, where Hayworth split the uprights on another 41-yard field goal, making it 23-14, EKU, with 1:05 left.
EKU has next weekend off before hosting Jacksonville State on Saturday, October 6, at Roy Kidd Stadium.
Eastern Kentucky is now 222-56-1 all-time at Roy Kidd Stadium.
EKU totaled five interceptions in 11 games last season. The Colonels entered today’s game with four interceptions in their first three games this season. Eastern picked off four passes on Saturday to up its season total to eight in four games
Samuel Hayworth’s 41-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter was a career-long.
Redshirt junior Ben Bascom’s first-quarter interception was the second of his career.
LJ Scott’s 46-yard first quarter rush was his longest as a Colonel. Scott is in his second season at EKU after transferring from Louisville.
Scott’s second-quarter touchdown was his fourth of the season.
Cornelius Floyd’s second-quarter interception was his first as a Colonel. Floyd, a redshirt senior, is in his third season at Eastern after transferring from Arkansas.
Redshirt junior Leodis Moore III picked off his second pass of the season in the second quarter. It was his fourth interception of his career.
Austin Scott’s third-quarter touchdown pass off a fake field goal was his second of the season and the third of his career.
Dan Paul’s third-quarter touchdown catch, off a fake field goal, was his third touchdown reception of the season and fourth of his career.