In a game that matched up two of the best defenses in the OVC the Colonels raced out to a 34-0 halftime lead and shut out Tennessee State 44-0. Eastern’s defense held the Tigers to 31 total offensive yards and forced 3 turnovers in a dominant first half.
Tennessee State finished with only 172 total yards and turned the ball over 4 times against a swarming Colonel defense.
After throwing an interception and punting on their first two possessions the Colonels cracked the scoring column on their third drive when Stanley Absanon returned a TSU punt all the way down to the seven yard line. After a holding penalty nullified a J.J. Jude touchdown and a false start backed the Colonels up to the 16 EKU quarterback Jared McClain hit Devin Borders for a sliding 16 yard touchdown to put Eastern up 7-0.
The Tigers turned the ball over on their ensuing possession when Anthony Brown recovered a Tim Broughton fumble at the TSU 31 yard line. However, Tennessee State appeared to dodge a bullet when Wilson Robinson intercepted a McClain pass at the TSU 8 yard line.
It was only a temporary reprieve however. Two TSU runs would lose 2 yards and on third down Colonels defensive back Chris Owens stripped Tigers wide receiver Weldon Garlington after a short completion. EKU defensive back Paul Ritter then scooped up the loose ball and sprint seven yards for a touchdown. Luke Pray added the extra point and the Colonels had a 14-0 lead with 3:45 to go in the first quarter.
Eastern forced a three and out on the Tigers next possession and after a holding penalty on the punt return took over on their own 26 yard line. EKU then marched on a 7 play, 76 yard drive capped by a 26 yard touchdown pass from McClain to Borders to give the Colonels a 21-0 lead.
The onslaught by the Colonels was far from over. EKU scored on each of their next 3 possessions: first on a 1 yard pass from McClain to Ike Ariguzo and then on a 1 yard touchdown run by Jude before halftime to take a 34-0 lead into the locker room.
The Colonels picked up where they left off in the first half when they embarked on a 7 play 75 yard drive out of the break punctuated by a 3 yard touchdown run by Jared Sanders. When the smoke had cleared the Colonels had scored on 5 possessions in a row and 6 out of 7. Andrew Lloyd closed out the scoring for the game when he booted a 25 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter after yet another Tiger fumble.
While the Colonels offense did its part against a highly rated TSU defense with 303 yards and 37 points the EKU performance was keyed by the defense and special teams. In addition to the Absanon punt return that led to the first EKU score punter Jordan Berry helped the Colonels win the field possession battle all day. He punted 5 times for an average of 49.2 yards and landed 4 of them inside of the 20.
Meanwhile a hard-hitting Eastern defense forced 7 Tennessee State fumbles and recovered 4 of them which led to 17 EKU points. They also sacked Tigers quarterback Ronald Butler 4 times and forced another turnover on downs.
Overall, TSU ran 63 plays and only netted 172 yards for an average of 2.7 yards per play. Meanwhile the Colonels netted 305 yards on 65 plays for an average of 4.7 yards per play. McClain ended the game 8-14 passing for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. McClain also led the Colonels in rushing with 74 yards on 8 carries. Borders led Eastern in receiving with 42 yards on 2 catches, both of them for touchdowns.