EKU football falls short in the ’Ville

Senior Daryl McCleskey walks off the field after the 42-0 loss to Louisville on Saturday night.

The Eastern Kentucky University football team rolled into Louisville to face the Cardinals under the lights at Cardinal Stadium and fell 42-0.

This was the first matchup between the two teams since 2013 when the Cards defeated the Colonels, 44-7.

Coming in, head coach Mark Elder was confident in his team and the chance for his guys to pick up a win, but after the game Elder said Louisville wore them down.

“They kicked our tail in the second half,” Elder said. “There were some positives and things to really be excited about in the first half, particularly defensively. I thought our defense did a lot of good things in the first half... We really struggled with our offense against their defense.”

Quarterback Conor Blount tossed for only 43-yards and completed 6-of-12. Blount was sacked four times and twice on third down. Parker McKinney entered and went 3-for-4 and was sacked once.

The Colonels could not control the Cardinal defense. Louisville held the Colonel offense to only 172 yards of offense.

Elder was disappointed with the number of sacks and pointed to both the offensive line and quarterback for allowing those to happen.

“Some of that is on the line and some of that is on the quarterback,” Elder said. “We got through our progression and then we started to try to find our way, but we have to get it to the check down or throw the ball away, we can’t have negative yardage plays. It’s hard to be successful offensively when you’re playing from behind the sticks.”

Blount was also disappointed with the final result, but also used this game to learn and find areas to improve on.

“It’s frustrating,” said Blount. “It’s obviously a team that competes in a Power 5 conference. I don’t care what their record is that is a good team. Those guys are as talented as they come in college football. They’re playing college football at the highest level... We have to look ahead at what we have.”

Blount felt settled starting the game in front of 48,808 fans at Cardinal Stadium since he has played against big teams like Ohio State when he took the snaps for Oregon State last season.

“Having that experience has really helped and I think seeing that competition has helped too,” he said.

The EKU’s rushing attack was stalled from the start. As a team, the Colonels ran for 130 yards compared to the Cardinals’ 322 on the ground. Running back Daryl McCleskey finished with 79-yards on 22 carriers. Running back Alonzo Booth came off the week 1 matchup against Valporaiso with 128 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but only put up 34-yards against Louisville.

“They [Louisville] really stopped our run game,” Elder said. “We weren’t able to throw the ball very effectively so we just have to play better on offense.”

At halftime, the Colonels were only down 14-0 and Elder told his guys in the locker room that they were only one play away from being back in the game.

“A couple plays later [in the third quarter] and it wasn’t close anymore and then they started to pull away from us more,” he said. The Colonels were forced to punt the ball away nine times for a total of 337-yards. Back up quarterback Dakota Allen punted three times for EKU for a total of 93 yards and two inside the 20-yard line.

EKU allowed Louisville’s Tutu Atwell to have a 33-yard punt return that started a touchdown drive for the Cards to start the second half.

“We have to go out and play better,” Elder 

said. “We had a couple issues on special teams. Punting wasn’t our best day. We had trouble on punting and with our coverage so we have to get those things corrected and come back out next week.”

After 358 days, the Cardinals ended the program’s second longest home losing streak. First-year head coach Scott Satterfield picked up his first win at Louisville in dominating fashion over the Colonels.

Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass played well for the Cardinals going 12-for-19 for 196-yards and four touchdown passes.

Pass is the first quarterback at UofL to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Heisman Trophy winner and current Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson did so against Boston College.

The Cards wrapped up the night with 542-yards of offense, 4-for-9 on third down conversions and 4-for-5 on Red-Zone scores.

“They have some really dynamic guys that when they got into open space we had a hard time competing with their speed,” Elder said.

Elder hopes to use this game as a learning experience and his guys will improve over the week to prepare for their next opponent.

“Our goals are not out of reach since we lost this game and we want to win every game, but now we play our OVC and a couple non conference games and we still have everything right in front of us,” Blount said.

“We have a huge game next week so we have to be ready for that,” Elder said.

Up next for EKU is Indiana State on the road this Saturday, Sept. 14.

Last time Eastern played Indiana State in 2014, the Colonels lost 36-16. At the time, EKU was looking for its first FCS playoff win since 1994.

The Colonels will look to redeem themselves this season
against the Sycamores.

Kick off in Terre Haute is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday. EKU enters the game with a 1-1 record on the season.

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