RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University quarterback Tyler Swafford threw for a career-high 289 yards and senior tight end Dan Crimmins hauled in a career-best 124 yards, but Murray State University left Roy Kidd Stadium with a 41-28 win on Saturday.
Redshirt junior linebacker Jeffrey Canady recorded 17 tackles for the second time this season. The number is tied for 14th-most in the Football Championship Subdivision in a single game in 2016. Canady also logged two tackles for loss.
The Colonels led the way until the 4:56 mark of the third when the Racers took their first lead of the game. Trailing 20-7 in the third quarter, Murray State scored 31 unanswered points on its way to the win.
After both teams’ opening drives stalled, the Colonels struck first after capping a six-play, 70-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead with 7:03 left in the opening quarter.
Facing a 3rd-and-7, true freshman quarterback James Smith found Ryan Markush for a 10-yard completion. Three plays later, Smith took it himself 33 yards to the end zone for his second touchdown of the season. The Colonels converted the two-point conversion on a direct snap to junior Nigel Bethel, putting EKU up 8-0 in the first.
EKU’s defense denied a second quarter scoring opportunity for the Racers. Murray State’s KD Humphries’ pass was picked off by sophomore Tre’ Moore to give EKU possession at midfield.
With the momentum, Swafford connected with senior Devin Borders for a 48-yard completion, moving the Colonels’ offense all the way to the Murray six-yard line. Sophomore running back Ethan Thomas logged his sixth career touchdown for the Colonels on the ensuing play, extending the EKU lead to 14-0. Lucas Williams’ kick widened the Colonel lead to 15-0 with 3:05 before intermission.
The Racer offense was able to put together a seven-play, 59-yard drive to get on the board before the break. Humphries completed 4-of-5 passes to lead the Racers into the red zone, before Mareio McGraw broke the plane from one yard out with 1:49 on the clock. Conner Mitchell added the point after to narrow the EKU lead to eight, 15-7.
The Colonels added to their lead with an efficient 12-play, 71-yard drive capped by a Williams field goal to give Eastern an 18-7 lead heading into the locker room.
EKU’s aggressive defensive play paid dividends early in the second half. The Colonel defense stymied the opening possession for the Racers, recording consecutive sacks. After a sack by Xavier Garcia, an Aaron Patrick hurry forced a Humphries throw from the end zone. Humphries was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety—EKU’s first since Oct. 11, 2014 against Eastern Illinois—and extended the EKU lead to 20-7.
However, Murray State converted on its three ensuing drives, scoring 21 unanswered to take a 28-20 lead in the third.
On its first possession of the second half, the Colonels had a 28-yard field goal attempt from Lucas Williams blocked and recovered by the Racers at the goal line for a touchback.
The Racers took possession at their own 20 went 80 yards in 1:46 for the score as Humphries found Jordon Gandy for the score, narrowing the EKU lead to 20-14 following the point after from Conner Mitchell.
MSU then forced a punt and took over at its own 33. Freshman Connor Foos recorded his first career sack, wrapping up Humphries for a seven-yard loss on the Racers’ first play of the drive. However, Humphries connected with Gandy for a 74 touchdown throw. Mitchell tacked on the extra point, giving the Racers their first lead of the day at 21-20.
An Eastern fumble following the Murray score, gave the Racers the ball at the Colonel 28 and Murray took advantage. Humphries found Jonathan Moss from 10 yards out and a Mitchell extra point made it 28-20 Murray State.
With EKU trailing, the Colonels had a fourth-and-one opportunity from the Murray five-yard line, as Swafford gained three to keep the drive alive. The Colonels were denied the end zone on the following three plays. On fourth-and-goal from the Murray one-yard line, Zach Burgy-Vanhoose missed a field goal attempt wide right.
The Racers wasted no time, orchestrating a 7-play, 59-yard drive to take a 31-20 lead. A solid defensive effort thwarted the Racer drive, forcing a 38-yard field goal from Mitchell.
EKU took over on its own 25 and a first-and-10 throw from Swafford was tipped by a Murray defensive lineman, before falling into the hands of Troy-Way Quinn for the interception.
After an eight-yard touchdown run from McGraw put the Racers in front, 38-20, the Colonels got on the board again on a one-yard rush from Swafford.
Mitchell added a 30-yard field goal with 1:38 to play to seal the win for the Racers.
Humphries finished with three touchdowns and 338 yards through the air for Murray State. Gandy hauled in two scores and 218 yards receiving.
Canady and the EKU defense held the Racers to 66 yards on the ground, while the Colonels grinded out 146 of their own.
Eastern Kentucky will play its final road game of the 2016 season next Saturday at Austin Peay. Kickoff in Clarksville, Tennessee is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.
Devin Borders racked up 82 yards through the air against Murray State. Borders is now sixth on EKU’s top 10 career receiving yards list with 2,081. Borders entered the game seventh in program history, before passing Steve Bird.
Redshirt junior linebacker Jeffrey Canady recorded 17 tackles for the second time this season. The number is tied for 14th-most in the Football Championship Subdivision in a single game.
Quarterback Tyler Swafford ended the day with a career-high 289 yards.
Tight end Dan Crimmins finished with a career-high 124 receiving yards.
Connor Foos recorded his first career sack.
The Colonels outgained the Racers 323-126 in the first half.