By Ryan Alves
For the first time this year the Colonels relied on the run game instead of the usual air attack, en route to a 58-7 win over visiting Kentucky State University.Quarterback T.J. Pryor found the end zone, on a 31-yard rush, Eastern’s first rushing touchdown of the year, just two minutes into the game for the games first points.
From then on the Colonels (1-3, 0-0) ran away from Thorobreds, picking up their first win of the season.
Kentucky State, a D-II school out of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, did not prove much of a test for the Colonels. Eastern racked up 346 total yards on offense and held the Thorobreds to only 98 total yards.
Eastern, after only averaging 61 yards rushing in its first three games, piled up 286 yards on the ground against Kentucky State. Matt Denham led way with 101 yards on three carries. Denham scored his first and second collegiate touchdowns in the fourth quarter on runs of 62 and 31 yards.
“We finally had an opportunity to run the ball by what they were doing schematically,” Dean Hood said. “We worked on it in the open date and until now we didn’t feel like we were ready to run the ball. We felt the pass gave us a better chance to win. But we knew we had to get more balanced.”
Kyle Lumpkin carried the ball seven times for 84 yards and his first touchdown in a Colonel uniform. Pryor netted 42 yards rushing on four carries.
True freshman quarterback Jacob Russell got into the mix and made contributions for the Colonel offense.
Russell took his first collegiate snaps on the Colonels second drive of the game. Using what Hood called his “Tim Tebow style of running” Russell’s first play was a six-yard rush up the middle. Russell carried the ball five more times on the drive, his last carry, a 2-yard punch-in, for his first college touchdown. Russell scored again on a 15-yard keeper right before halftime.
“We planned on playing Jacob regardless,” Hood said. “We should have done it at Chattanooga. It gives us two things. First it helps us not worry about T.J. If he’s banged up like in the Louisville game and we can’t use him as a runner we have an option. Secondly it gives us more of a power runner at quarterback whereas T.J. is an elusive guy.”
Russell was admittedly nervous about seeing his first in-game action but receiving his first big-time college hit shook it all away.
“It honestly felt great to get hit again,” said Russell, who also completed both of his pass attempts for 13 yards. “I was nervous before but I was itching to hit someone or get hit. It felt great. I told one of my teammates all I wanted was to get in the end zone once.”
Eastern’s defense also had four sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown.
With 11 minutes to go in the first half, junior linebacker Tyson Patrick picked off his first college pass. Patrick then found a running lane down the right sideline and with the help of his blockers weaved around the Thorobreds for the 76-yard touchdown return.
“I actually had a dream about picking one off last night,” Patrick said. “No joke, I had a dream about doing it. And then I went out and did it and scored. I knew they weren’t going to catch me. I had the turbo button held down.”
The Colonels, who took a 38-0 lead at halftime, also received help from Tyrone Goard as he ran under Pryor’s deep ball for the 34-yard score. Pryor completed three of eight passes for 47 yards and a lone touchdown. He also threw an interception.
Eastern didn’t get complacent despite the huge lead starting the third quarter. Just one play into the drive, Lumpkin took the handoff and raced 62-yards untouched down the right sideline for the score. The run was Lumpkin’s longest of his career.
“I was pleased with the physicality up front by our offensive line,” Hood said. “We ran the ball very hard. We were much more physical which is something we tried to work on in the open date.”
Defensively, the Colonels who had been allowing opponents to gain slightly less than 450 yards a game were able to control the line of scrimmage and blanketed the Thorobred receivers. Kentucky State only gained 45 yards on the ground and was only in Eastern territory four times for the game. Jordan Dalrymple and Antonio Fredrick, with seven tackles each, led the Colonels.
Junior defensive lineman, Emory Attig attributed the defensive play to responding to the bye-week.
“We had a bitter taste in out mouth going into the off-week with a loss,” Attig said. “Up front they never gave up but I think it came down to our mental toughness. We worked on stopping the run and we were able too. We were more physical.”
Jerrell Noland completed 6-of-16 passes for Kentucky State for 45 yards. Shannon Frieson led the Thorobreds on the ground with 41 yards on 14 carries. Andrew Ramsey scored KSU’s only touchdown, a two-yard touchdown run.
The Colonels will play their first Ohio Valley Conference game of the season next Saturday when Eastern Illinois visits Roy Kidd Stadium.
Kickoff against the Panthers is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Colonels surpassed the 50-point plateau for the first time since beating Murray State 51-21 on Nov. 4, 2006.
Eastern snapped a six-game losing streak, its longest since 1963.
Eastern improved to 5-0 all-time against Kentucky State.
The Colonels are 10-2 following ‘open’ weeks since 2000. Eastern has won 10 in a row following an open weekend.
Today’s game marked the latest Eastern has played its home opener since 1964. Eastern improved to 8-3 in home openers since 2000.