RICHMOND – Eastern Kentucky University’s football team outgained Morehead State University by 273 yards on the ground on its way to a methodical 24-17 victory at Roy Kidd Stadium Saturday evening.
Senior running back Matt Denham, a Walter Payton Award candidate, carried the ball 34 times for 166 yards and eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark for his career. The Colonels totaled 282 yards rushing and limited the Eagles to nine yards on the ground. EKU held the ball for almost 42 of the 60 minutes.
Eastern grabbed the early lead with a 26-yard field goal by junior Luke Pray late in the first quarter.
A field goal by the Eagles early in the second quarter tied it, but the Colonels marched 58 yards in 11 plays on the following drive. Denham carried the ball seven times during the drive but it was senior T.J. Pryor’s pass to fellow senior Paul Henry from 18 yards out that gave the Colonels a 10-3 lead.
Safety Brandon Stanley stopped Morehead State’s next drive with his first career interception. The redshirt sophomore picked off a Zach Lewis pass in the end zone.
On Eastern’s final possession of the first half, Denham hit his career milestone. On 2nd-and-5, the senior broke the 2,000-yard rushing plateau with a five-yard gainer. The Rineyville native had 116 yards on 24 first half carries.
On MSU’s first possession of the second half, Lewis engineered a 10-play drive that covered 76 yards in only 2:16. He capped it with a 23-yard touchdown toss to Kevin Thomas and the extra-point tied the score 10-10.
The Colonels came right back and took the lead for good. The drive appeared to stall when Pryor was sacked for an eight-yard loss, but on 3rd-and-17 he connected with junior wide out Ike Ariguzo for 41 yards to the Morehead State 21-yard line. Ariguzo out-leaped a defender to haul in the pass. Denham finished it off with four straight carries, the last finding pay dirt from two yards out.
Stanley stopped the Eagles’ next possession with his first career sack. As Lewis rolled out of the pocket to his left on 3rd-and-10, the safety closed from behind and took the quarterback down for a four-yard loss.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Colonels marched 80 yards on 12 plays to put the game away. Eleven of the plays were on the ground. Junior Zavier Foster carried nine times for 47 yards including a six-yard plunge for a touchdown.
Morehead State put together another quick drive, moving 64 yards in five plays over 1:22. Another Lewis to Thomas touchdown with 2:46 left to play cut the lead to seven. However, on the ensuing drive Foster converted a 4th-and-1 allowing Pryor to take a knee to kill the clock.
Pryor was 13-for-22 for 148 yards and one touchdown. Foster added 81 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Lewis finished 28-for-42 for 294 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles. Sawyer caught nine passes for 110 yards.
The Colonels will visit Big South opponent Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 15. Kickoff in Conway, S.C. is scheduled for 6 p.m.