The Eastern Kentucky Colonels used a timely trick play and a bend but don’t break defense to defeat the Miami RedHawks in Yager Stadium on Saturday by a score of 17-10. With under 5 minutes to play in a 10-10 tie EKU wide receiver Jeff Glover took a handoff on a reverse, stopped and fired a strike to a wide open Deno Montgomery who outran a surprised Miami defense to the end zone for a 43 yard touchdown to give the Colonels a 17-10 lead with 4:43 to go in the game.
Miami was able to move the ball to the 50 yard line with a little over 2 minutes remaining but an incomplete pass, a sack by Jeff Canady and 2 false start penalties left the RedHawks facing a 3rd and 22. After a 7 yard completion Miami’s chances would come down to a 4th and 15 play. Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix attempted to find a wide receiver near the first down marker but Colonel cornerback Stanley Absanon stepped in front of the pass to record his second interception of the day. Two Dy’Shawn Mobley rushes gave the Colonels a first down and forced Miami to use up their timeouts. From their a couple of kneel downs ran out the clock and Eastern had their first win over a FBS opponent since 1985 and their first 2-0 start since 2000.
The day did not get off to a good start for the Colonels who allowed Miami to take the ball 75 yards in only 3 plays for a touchdown. 59 seconds into the game the RedHawks led 7-0. That would be the last time that Miami would get into the end zone on the day. Although Miami was able to dominate the time of possession 38:38 to 21:22 and pass for 359 yards the Colonels were able to come away with the win.
How did they do it? First, they shut down the RedHawks running game. Miami was only able to rush for 60 yards on 38 attempts: an average of only 1.6 yards per rush. This made the Miami offense very one-dimensional.
Second, and most important, the Colonels won the turnover battle 6-2. Forced to throw by an inept running game and harassed by a Colonel pass rush that sacked him 5 times Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix threw 3 interceptions. One of those was returned for a 55 yard touchdown by OVC Defensive Player of the Week Stanley Absanon to tie the game at 10 with 3:53 to go in the 3rd quarter. Neither team was able to break the tie until Glover and Mongomery’s heroics late in the fourth.
Both teams missed some chances to break the game open: Miami missed a 22 yard field goal and had a 21 yard field goal blocked by Devin Borders–his 2nd blocked kick in 2 games this season and 7th of his career. Meanwhile, Miami defensive back Quentin Rollins intercepted a Jared McClain pass in the end zone in the 3rd quarter. The RedHawks also dodged a bullet when Hendrix was sacked and stripped by Colonel linebacker Trey Thomas. Fellow linebacker Marquis Piton scooped up the fumble at the Miami 24 but then fumbled himself at the 20 where Miami was able to recover. Those were really the only serious scoring opportunities for either team.
In addition to an opportunistic defense the Colonels were excellent on special teams. Kicker Andrew Lloyd again recorded touchbacks on all 4 of his kickoffs. He has yet to allow a return on 11 kicks so far this season. True Freshman punter Keith Wrzuszczak averaged 39.3 yards on his 9 punts, including a 60 yarder to open the 4th quarter. Miami lost a total of 12 yards on their 3 punt returns and were not able to return any of Lloyd’s kickoffs. This helped the Colonels win the field possession game and forced Miami to string together long drives to score. With their running game ineffective Hendrix was simply not accurate enough to sustain drives. He threw for 359 yards but was only 25/52 and his 3 interceptions were key.
The Colonel offense, which moved the ball with ease against Robert Morris last week, struggled most of the day. Miami was able to bottle up the EKU running game. The Colonels were held to only 12 first downs and 250 total yards. Both Bennie Coney and Jared McClain played at quarterback for Eastern but neither was able to consistently move the chains. With the offensive struggles it was up to the defense and special teams to carry the team, and carry the team they did. This was the type of game that the Colonels have lost the past couple of seasons but against Miami the adversity seemed to help strengthen the Colonels resolve. Even though it took a couple of timely turnovers and a trick play to pull off the win it seemed like the Colonels were on the edge of breaking the game open the whole second half, they looked like the better team.
The Colonels open up their home schedule at Roy Kidd Stadium with an in-state matchup with Morehead State. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 PM.