By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
With momentum starting to slip away, the Colonels didn’t want to give the ball back to the Eagles.
So, the EKU coaching staff went into its bag of tricks.
Facing a fourth-and-four on their own 48-yard line mid-way through the third quarter while clinging to a 21-17 lead, the Colonels lined up for a punt.
But, it was running back Caleb Watkins who took the direct snap.
“We’ve been wanting to run that for a while,” Watkins said. “Coach called it and we were all excited. When he snapped it, everyone was washed down and the blockers opened up the sideline for me.”
Watkins picked up 34 yards, moved the chains and snatched away all the momentum from Morehead.
Four plays later, Devin Borders caught a 5-yard touchdown pass.
The Colonels out-scored Morehead State 35-7 after the fake punt and went on to pick up a 56-24 win at Jayne Stadium. EKU running back J.J. Jude rushed for a career-best 195 yards and four touchdowns and Borders caught two Tds and had 133 yards as EKU (2-2) snapped a two-game losing streak.
“I think that was kind of a momentum changer for us,” EKU coach Dean Hood said of the fake punt, which the team refers to as The Roy Kidd Play. “It was critical point in the game.”
The game marked the first time the Colonels had played at Morehead (0-4) in 20 years.
The Eagles were ready for the challenge.
They trailed just 21-14 at halftime and got even closer when Luke Boyd hit a 43-yard field goal four minutes into the second half.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Borders said. “Everyone is ready to go. They came out hard in the first half. We just turned it up in the second half.”
Borders caught a 15-yard touchdown later in the third quarter that gave EKU a 35-17 lead.
After Morehead State scored in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Colonels added three more touchdowns, including Jude’s fourth TD of the game — a 17-yard run — to completely end any thought of a comeback.
“We stuck to the gameplan,” Borders said. “Spread it out, run it a little bit. Credit to the offensive line. Everyone did a great job all the way around.”
Through the first three games of the season, four running backs — Jude, Thomas Owens, Caleb Watkins and Jared Sanders — had almost evenly split carries for the Colonels. None had more than 29 carries or 94 yards on the season.
But, Jude got the start against Morehead and made the most of the opportunity.
The red shirt freshman scored twice in the first quarter — on runs of two and five yards — then added an 11-yard TD with 5:06 left before halftime that gave EKU a 21-7 lead.
“He’s really physical,” Hood said of Jude. “The backs all have different skill sets. He’s one of our most straight-ahead physical guys and he has such great balance. We felt like we needed some umph in our run game. We felt like we haven’t been physical enough at the point of attack.”
Jude came into the game with just 19 carries and 73 yards on the season.
He had 129 yards on 23 carries in the first half.
Jude, who is from nearby Hagerhill and played at Johnson Central, had more than 25 family and friends in the crowd.
“I played my heart out and the line blocked its butt off,” Jude said
EKU punted on its first possession, but Chris Owens came up with an interception that ended a Morehead drive. The Colonels took advantage, going 60 yards on six plays, capped by Jude’s first college touchdown.
EKU blocked a punt moments later and seven plays later, Jude found the end zone again to put his team up 14-0.
Morehead got back in the game with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Austin Gahafer to Kitaro Lewis with 44 seconds left in the first quarter.
After Jude’s third TD, Morehead had a chance to put together one last drive before halftime. The Eagles converted two fourth downs and got a 7-yard TD catch from Rees Macshara with 1:17 left before halftime.
The Eagles and Colonels played on a pretty much yearly basis for decades until Morehead dropped down to non-scholarship football and dropped out of the Ohio Valley Conference in 1995.
The teams had played just twice since then and the Colonels picked up hard-fought wins both teams - 16-8 in 2008 and 24-17 last year.
“Every game we play against those guys (is a one-possession) game,” Hood said.
EKU quarterback Jared McClain was 17-of-26 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Watkins had 58 yards on four carries and Jeff Glover had four catches for 76 yards.
Tyler Horn and Trey Thomas both had interceptions for the Colonels. Brandon Stanley, who was playing in his first game of the season, had a team-high eight tackles, along with Horn and Tyrelle Johnson.