Running back Alonzo Booth had a strong performance in front of more than 11,000 fans when the Eastern Kentucky University football team routed Valparaiso, 53-7 on Thursday night at Roy Kidd Stadium.
Booth finished the night with three touchdowns, 128 rushing-yards, averaging 18.3 yards a run and an 86-yard touchdown scamper to complete his solid performance for the Colonels.
Eastern used their run attack to their advantage like last season as the Colonels racked up 333 rushing yards against the Crusaders on 39 carries. Three running backs scored including Daryl McCleskey, Jason Lewis and Booth.
“Coming in behind Stink (McCleskey) and our other running backs we have such a great room and to be able to produce it felt good as a group and individually,” Booth said.
McCleskey started the home opener with
a 64-yard run for the score to give his team a quick lead two minutes in.
“We set them up,” McCleskey said about the opening touchdown for the Colonels. “I got the ball and I saw the blocks and my cards lined up so I just hit it and started running.”
The Colonels seemed to be in control from that point on as they put up 32 points in the first half.
The Crusaders finally got on the board with 11:41 left in the third quarter on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Chris Duncan.
Head Coach Mark Elder was happy with his team’s rushing attack from the start.
“We rushed the ball really well,” Elder said. “When we got our running backs into space that was where we took advantage of that match up. When there was a little green grass that was a lot of our bigger plays.”
Elder was pleased with his team’s effort, but sees room for improvement.
“Anytime we can get a victory we’re always excited about that,” Elder said. “I think we were
a little sloppy at times so there are certainly some areas that we have to be a little bit sharper, but I think every coach in the country says that after the first game.”
Oregon State transfer quarterback, Conor Blount started for Eastern and went 6-for-11 with one interception. Blount finished with 62 passing yards and two sacks.
“I thought Conor did a lot of good things,” Elder said. “There is probably a couple plays he’d love to have back.”
Parker McKinney also saw some snaps under center. The Redshirt sophomore
went 6-for-8 and tossed one pick. The two quarterbacks combined for 95 passing yards.
“I’m anticipate him playing a role for us and make sure him and the other quarterbacks stay sharp,” Elder said. “We want to make sure we are giving those guys live action when it matters.”
The defense also contributed to the first win of the season. Corey Glass compiled eight tackles, a team-high, and a fumble recovery for
a 29 yard touchdown in the first quarter. The EKU defense held Valpo. to 19-for-7 passing and forced three fumbles.
EKU was perfect in the red-zone as they went 5-for-5. The Colonels also had 19 first downs and 442 yards in total offense against the Crusades.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Elder said.
Elder and the Colonels fed off the energy and excitement around the stadium from the fans and they hope that will continue all season.
“I want to thank our fans,” he said. “The student section was packed which was awesome. Tailgating and the Colonel Walk was good and kept getting better. I really appreciate our fans.”
Eastern Kentucky is back in action next Saturday, Sep. 7 when they travel to face the University of Louisville. Kick off is set for 7 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium.