By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. —
The Colonels were pretty much in control when they lined up to attempt a field goal late in the first half Saturday against the Redhawks at Houck Stadium.
They were already up 17-0 and looked to be in position to simply cruise to a third-straight lopsided win.
That’s when they delivered a surprise knockout blow.
Jordan Berry took the snap and raced around the right side of the line untouched for a 25-yard touchdown with 3:27 left before halftime.
“It sealed the deal for us,” Berry said of his first college touchdown. “In the second half, we played well, but it was pretty much over there.”
The Colonels (5-3, 3-1) went on to pick up a 31-7 win over SEMO (1-7, 1-4 OVC) that kept them in the hunt for the Ohio Valley Conference title with a month left in the regular season. EKU’s defense was stellar once again, forcing two turnovers and allowing just a fourth-quarter touchdown, while red shirt freshman running back J.J. Jude rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought it was a really good all-around win,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “Almost perfect, really, except for a play here and there.”
The Colonels scored on three of their first four drives and had a fourth-and-six on the SEMO 25-yard line. Berry, a senior punter, who also serves as the team’s holder on extra punts and field goals, didn’t hesitate and had no trouble racing past the baffled SEMO defense.
“It was a good opportunity to do it,” Hood said of the fake field goal. “We actually called it one other time in the game, but Jordan missed the call. It was something we had been working on and we felt like it was something we had a chance to be successful on and the kids did a great job executing it.”
Berry has been successful in running fake punts and trick plays during his career at EKU, but this was the first time he has gotten a chance to get into the end zone. The Australian native sprinted across the goal line and tossed the ball high into the air before being mobbed by teammates.
“The offensive line did a great job,” Berry said. “They opened up a gap that was probably four or five yards wide. None of the linebackers caught on that I was moving, so it was nice to take off and score a touchdown.”
That turned out to be the highlight of another impressive victory for the Colonels.
Since a loss to EIU in the OVC opener Sept. 28, EKU hasn’t been challenged, rolling to a trio of wins by a combined score of 93-20.
“Our back’s against the wall,” EKU senior linebacker Ichiro Vance said. “Everyone knows that. But, I’m fighting and everyone else on my team is fighting. We are locking arms and we are ready to go.”
The Colonels took charge right away against SEMO.
On its first possession, EKU went 42 yards on three plays in just 1:07. Jude capped that drive with a 28-yard run where he blasted past a couple of would-be defenders and strolled into the end zone.
“We were running a power play there,” Jude said. “(My blocker) got his guy kicked out. I went right up the middle. I didn’t have to make too many moves. I only had to make one guy miss. Then I walked into the end zone.”
That opening drive set the tone for the Colonels.
“The defense went out and get a three-and-out right before that,” Hood said of Jude’s TD. “It’s huge when you can get up on team, especially a young team. You don’t give them anything to get excited about.”
EKU punted on its next possessions, then scored on three-straight drives.
Andrew Lloyd hit a 44-yard field goal early in the second quarter, then quarterback Jared McClain threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Ike Ariguzo with 7:57 left before halftime.
“We are playing well right now,” Jude said of EKU’s offense. “We are meshing as a team right now and that’s the main thing.”
The EKU defense wasn’t quite as dominant as it was in wins over Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay, but it was still sharp enough to keep the Redhawks off the scoreboard for more than three quarters. Still trailing just 7-0, SEMO put together an 11-play drive that gave them a first down in the red zone. But, EKU’s Tyler Horn forced a fumble by SEMO QB Scott Lanthrop near the goal line, which was recovered by Brandon Stanley.
The Redhawks didn’t get back inside the EKU 20-yard line until the outcome was already decided.
“We are clicking and we are understanding that patience is the key for us,” Vance said of the EKU defense. “Practice is important too. We had a great week of practice and it really translates over well.”
The Colonels only out-gained SEMO 333-320 and gave up 170 yards rushing, their second-highest total of the season.
Still, EKU won the turnover battle (2-1) and held the Redhawks to six-of-16 on third downs.
McClain was seven-of-12 for 120 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 38 yards on 11 carries. Ariguzo had a team-best three catches for 58 yards.
The Colonels return to action next week at home against Tennessee State.
EKU closes out the season with a quarter of game against teams still in the hunt for an OVC title.
“We got four tough ones left and we are ready to roll,” Jude said.