By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The Colonels desperately needed a comfortable, feel-good victory.
And they got just that kind of win Saturday in their Ohio Valley Conference home opener against Austin Peay.
EKU (3-3, 1-1 OVC) limited the winless Governors (0-5 0-1 OVC) to just 108 yards, including only six yards rushing, and dominated from start to finish in a very thoroughly convincing 38-3 win.
“We are getting back in the groove and today we showed it,” EKU quarterback/wide receiver Ben De La Cruz said. “Our goal is to win out the rest of the year.”
After a disheartening 42-7 loss last week in the OVC opener at Eastern Illinois, the Colonels were dominant against the Governors.
Caleb Watkins had two touchdown runs, Thomas Owens had 100 yards on six rushes, De La Cruz rushed for a touchdown and quarterback Jared McClain threw for one score and rushed for another touchdown.
“It was a must-win game for us,” EKU senior linebacker Anthony Brown said. “We are just going to take it one game at time and try to get back in the race for the conference championship.”
The lopsided win put EKU right back in the hunt for a record 22nd OVC title heading into the team’s only open week of the season.
And the Colonels used the formula that has been so successful in recent years — run the ball, stop the ball and win the turnover battle.
Austin Peay averaged just 0.2 yards a carry on 25 attempts, while the Colonels racked up 321 yards rushing and averaged 7.0 yards a carry.
EKU had just one turnover, and forced two interceptions (Brown and Stanley Absanon) and a fumble.
“That’s Colonel football,” Dean Hood said. “It’s not a whole lot of fun when you are not doing that. When you are doing that its a lot of fun. I think our kids could have kept playing until midnight. I’m just really proud of the team.”
The Colonels punted on their first two possessions, but then scored on their final three drives of the first half — touchdown, touchdown and a field goal.
McClain scored on a 10-yard run with 4:17 left in the first quarter. Watkins had a 3-yard TD run early in the second quarter and Luke Prey had a 23-yard field goal with 4:26 left before halftime.
With redshirt freshman J.J. Jude out of the lineup with an injury, Watkins and Jared Sanders each had 10 carries in the first half as the Colonels pounded the ball on the ground.
“You’ve got to give the credit to the offensive line,” Watkins said. “They played a great game and if it wasn’t for them, there would be no yards. We miss J.J. We hope he heals up this week, but we have the mentality of next man up. That’s what I hope I did tonight.”
In the third quarter, Roman Lawson caught a 4-yard TD pass from McClain, then Watkins scored on a 2-yard run.
“We just wanted to run power against them and it seems to work in the first half,” Watkins said. “That’s what we wanted to do — Line up and run the ball.”
The EKU running game really broke loose in the second half.
Owens had a 62-yard run and De La Cruz, a senior who came in to play quarterback, scored his first career touchdown on a 79-yard run.
That TD run, which came on a read-option set, was EKU’s longest offensive play of the game.
“It’s in our offense,” De La Cruz said of the play. “Jared runs it. I just ran the play and started running.”
The EKU defense was rock-solid.
With just more than four minutes left in the first half, Austin Peay had just one yard of total offense. EKU out-gained the Governors 195-51 in the first half.
“That’s our No. 1 goal each week — stop the run,” Brown said. “We did a pretty good job of doing that tonight.”
The Colonels are off next week before taking on Tennessee Tech Oct. 19 at Roy Kidd Stadium.