By Clay Ward
Eastern Kentucky’s football season, which includes an Ohio Valley Conference title and playoff berth, has come to an end with a record of 9-3.Eastern’s historic season because with a 40-point loss to the University of Kentucky and another loss two weeks later to arch rival Western Kentucky. Starting the Colonels season at 1-2.
Not what most would see as a championship season but the colonels would end this year as undisputed OVC champions for the first time in a decade under the legendary Roy Kid.
The Colonels fate was sealed last Saturday in Richmond, Virginia at the hands of the Richmond Spiders 31-14.
Richmond (10-2) will advance from the first round to the quarterfinals of the playoffs to play Wofford.
The difference-maker in the game was Richmond’s ability to move the ball on the ground.
Richmond totaled 278 yards rushing, 180 of those yards coming from Walter Payton Award candidate senior Tim Hightower.
Hightower led the Spiders to victory and in the process broke the schools career rushing record against Eastern at 3,520 yards. Hightower ended the game with 1,741 career-rushing yards.
Eastern’s running game was uncharacteristically unproductive.
Seniors Bobby Washington and Mark Dunn combined for 38 yards for the game. Washington led the Colonels in receptions with five totaling 82 yards.
Junior quarterback Alan Holland was forced to scramble too much causing bad passes, completing 5-12 for 28 yards and one interception.
Senior Josh Greco subbed in to replace the injured Holland who came out with a shoulder injury on Eastern’s last drive before the half.
Greco, a quarterback who hadn’t seen the field the last three games and hadn’t started since the first game of the season but was now in the limelight again.
Eastern had allowed a field goal followed by a pair of touchdowns without any rebuttal scoring before Greco had stepped onto the field.
First play under center, Greco hits freshman wide receiver Evan Cromer for a nine-yard gain and first down. After two runs by Washington Eastern was able to go into the half down 17-7.
Starting the half Eastern’s defense was able to make back-to-back stops; both stops were turnover on downs thanks specifically by tackles by seniors Justin Curry and Derrick Huff.
Eastern’s next drive was ended abruptly three plays later after Greco threw an interception that would eventually lead to a Richmond touchdown, giving the Spiders a 24-7 lead.
Eastern opened the fourth quarter with a score finishing a 12 play, 58 yard drive continued from the third quarter.
The 10-point margin Eastern created would quickly be increased as Richmond drove right back down the field. Carried by Hightower up to the three-yard line and one more pass would set the score of 31-14 that would eventually end the game.
Eastern rallied behind Greco to reach the six yard line before Richmond’s defensive end Lawrence Sidbury Jr. would cause a forced fumble.
The turnover allowed Richmond’s running backs, Hightower and junior Josh Vaughan, to run most the clock out. Then allow one final drive for Eastern before game over.