By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
For most of his college career, T.J. Pryor has been considered a dual-threat quarterback with the ability to hurt opposing team’s defenses through the air and on the ground.
But, that perception is starting to change.
In his senior season, the EKU quarterback has become much more comfortable in the pocket and doesn’t look to scramble as much as he did in previous years.
“I feel like it has a lot to do with my offensive line,” Pryor said of staying in the pocket. “They are giving me the right protection and time. If it wasn’t for them giving me that time and the receivers catching the balls, then we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it.”
As sophomore, Pryor led the Colonels in rushing yards (505), but this season the Louisville native has relied much more on his arm than his legs.
Pryor is on pace to set new single-season bests for passing touchdowns, completion percentage and yards a game.
He’s also on pace to set new single-season career lows for rushing yards (nine yards) and interceptions.
Despite missing the season opener at Purdue, the senior has 14 touchdown passes and just two interceptions on the season. His quarterback efficiency rating of 174.38 is the best in the Ohio Valley Conference and ranks third-best among all Football Championship Subdivision Players in the country.
“I think it’s more just me being comfortable in the pocket,” Pryor said of his success this season. “We are all just clicking.”
Pryor’s new-found comfort zone in the Colonels’ run-oriented offense has allowed him to become a better passer.
The senior’s development and maturity has certainly impressed the EKU coaching staff.
“A couple of times on Saturday (against Tennessee Tech), he knew exactly where he was going to go, then he took the snap and looked off another receiver, even though he had no intention of throwing it there,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “That’s the first time I’ve seen him do that.”
Earlier this season, Pryor set school career records in three major passing categories — passing yards (6,843 yards), passing touchdowns (50) and completions (504).
Last Saturday, he led a comeback that helped the Colonels get back into first place.
The senior completed all seven of his pass attempts in the fourth quarter for 112 yards and two touchdowns as the Colonels rallied for a 42-28 win. Pryor was 23-of-31 for 296 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.
On Sunday, Pryor was named the OVC Offensive Player of the Week.
“It felt perfect,” Pryor said of the comeback. “We are struggling a little bit early in the game, but the defense kept playing well and giving us opportunities to score. We just kept plugging and finally it opened up for us.”
Getting ready for the Colonels
For the third time this season, the Colonels are set to face an OVC opponent coming off a bye week.
Eastern Illinois will come into Roy Kidd Stadium after having last week off.
Earlier in the season, Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech both had an extra week to prepare for EKU.
“I think it helped Tennessee Tech and I think it hurt Jacksonville State,” Hood said. “And that’s kind of how a bye week is. It’s 50-50. It can hurt you and or it can help you.”
The Colonels rolled past Jacksonville State 51-21, but last week had to rally from a second-half deficit to beat Tennessee Tech, 42-28, on the road.
Junior running back Xavier Foster had three carries last week against Tennessee Tech, but is not likely to see action against Eastern Illinois this weekend.
Foster has been banged-up for several weeks. He didn’t play against UT-Martin or Tennessee State, but did have eight carries for 25 yards and touchdown against Austin Peay (0ct. 13).
Senior defensive back Brooklyn Fox has been battling turf toe the past couple of weeks and did not start last week against Tennessee Tech. He still played and finished with four tackles and an interception, which led to a big fourth-quarter touchdown.
The senior has a team-best four interceptions this season.
Goard and Denham in the Top 10
Seniors Matt Denham and Tyrone Goard both passed significant milestones in the Colonels’ win last week at Tennessee Tech.
Denham finished with 104 yards rushing, moving him into 10th place on the school’s all-time rushing list. He now has 2,827 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on 479 attempts.
Goard had four catches for 93 yards, which moved him into 10th place on the school’s all-time receiving yardage list. He passed running backs coach John Revere (1,503 - 1972-75) on the list.
Goard now has 1,529 yards and 23 touchdowns on 84 catches.