RICHMOND, Ky. – Forty-eight unanswered points and three defensive touchdowns helped the Eastern Kentucky University football team to a 55-14 win over the University of Pikeville in Thursday’s home opener at Roy Kidd Stadium.
The Colonels’ three pick sixes all came in the third quarter, as EKU put the game out of reach. Redshirt senior running back Jared Sanders carried the load on offense, finishing with a career-high 100 yards on 16 carries.
Eastern finished the contest with 284 yards on the ground, while holding UPike to 103 yards rushing. The Bears had eight turnovers on the night.
Thursday’s contest marked the first between the two programs. EKU has won its last eight home openers. The Colonels (1-1) return to action Sept. 17 as they travel to Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent Ball State. Eastern Kentucky is 3-0 all-time against the Cardinals.
The Colonels’ defense tightened in the second half, scoring 21 of EKU’s 24 points in the frame.
Redshirt senior Kiante Northington took the pass from UPike’s Bowen Smith to the end zone for the sixth interception of his career and his first career touchdown to put EKU up 30-14 before the extra point from Lucas Williams.
Much was the same on the ensuing UPike possession, as Corey Glass stepped in front of Smith’s pass for the pick. Glass returned the interception 56 yards for the score, and the extra point gave the Colonels a commanding 38-14 advantage.
In the closing seconds of the third, redshirt junior Luder Jean Louis tipped a throw from Shannon Patrick and pulled it down in the end zone, extending the Eastern lead to 33 before Williams tacked on the extra point.
The EKU offense struck first in the game, moving 58 yards on eight consecutive runs from Henry Enyenihi and Sanders to put the Colonels at the Pikeville 13 yard line. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Swafford found junior Ryan Markush for the score with 4:11 left in the first.
UPike answered 25 seconds into the second quarter, capping a 10 play, 75-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Anfernee Brown, tying the game at seven. The Bears took a 14-7 lead—their only lead of the contest—on a 16-yard fumble return for a score by Jordan Mattingly midway through the second quarter.
Trailing 14-7, the Colonels needed just 67 seconds to tie the game at 14. Following a defensive stop, EKU regained the lead with an eight-yard scamper from James Smith Jr. The true freshman quarterback took it himself and laid out to find the pylon after leading the offense to a 75-yard scoring drive.
Swafford completed 7-of-12 for 73 yards while Smith went 4-for-5 for 30 yards. Enyenihi ran for 63 yards on 10 carries.
Pikeville quarterback Sani Warren was 7-for-8 for 65 yards before leaving the game with an injury. Xondre Willis totaled 71 yards on the ground for the Bears.
Jeffrey Canady and Dwight Williams each had 10 tackles for Eastern Kentucky. Kagen Skidmore had 1.5 sacks.
Thursday’s win marked the first career victory for EKU head coach Mark Elder.
Tyler Swafford has thrown touchdown passes in two consecutive games.
Senior Henry Enyenihi, junior Ryan Markush, redshirt sophomore Raynaldy Gustave and freshman James Smith all recorded their first career touchdowns as Colonels.
Redshirt senior Kiante Northington picked up his sixth career interception and his first career touchdown with his 12-yard interception return.
Sophomore Corey Glass also recorded his first career touchdown following a 54-yard interception return for six.
Senior Devin Borders is now 62 yards from cracking the program’s top-10 in career receiving yards.