By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Through the first three games of the season, the Colonels used a quartet of running backs.
And they basically split the carries — and the yards — almost equally.
But, that pattern changed drastically Saturday at Morehead State.
Redshirt freshman J.J. Jude got the start and put together a record-setting performance. Jude rushed for four touchdowns (tying a school record) and 195 yards (the most this season by any OVC players) as the Colonels rolled to a 56-24 win.
After carrying the ball just 19 times for 73 yards and no touchdowns in the first three games, Jude had 33 carries against the Eagles.
Prior to Saturday, no EKU running back had carried the ball more than 11 times in any game this season.
But, Jude got off to a fast start and the Colonels coaching staff didn’t want to take the ball out of his hands.
“We wanted to start with J.J. last week for a reason, but we stayed with him for a reason,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “He was running hard and making guys miss.”
The redshirt made the most of the opportunity.
He scored on two touchdown runs in the first quarter (2 yards and 5 yards), then scored on an 11-yard run in the second quarter and a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter.
He averaged 5.9 yards a carry and on Sunday the Hagerhill native was named the OVC Newcomer of the Week.
On Monday, he was named The Sports Network’s FCS Co-Freshman of the Week.
“I’m just trying to stay focused,” Jude said. “We’ve got conference play coming up. We can’t really think about that win, we’ve got to worry about this week.”
Jude is the first EKU running back since Mark Dunn in 2005 to score four rushing touchdowns in a game.
Thomas Owens (25-yard run) and Jared Sanders (7-yard run), both had rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Morehead as well.
Owens, Sanders and Caleb Watkins — EKU’s other three backs — combined for 97 yards on 11 carries.
Hood said at Wednesday’s press conference that Jude will be in the starting lineup once again when the Colonels head to Eastern Illinois for a big conference showdown on Saturday.
But, the EKU coach added that all four running backs will once again be part of the gameplan and that none of them will likely get as many carries as Jude got last week.
Unless of course one of the backs catches fire early, again.
“It could be Caleb Watkins this week that goes out there gets hot and is running good, so we keep giving it to him,” Hood said.
Borders turning into a playmaker
Redshirt freshman Devin Borders is quickly turning into a big-time playmaker in the EKU offense.
Borders caught a season-best nine catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns last week in the win at Morehead State. The 6-foot-5 native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., has a touchdown catch in three-straight games and leads the team with 17 catches and 243 receiving yards.
“Jeff Glover can go up and get it too,” Hood said of his two top receivers. “We really feel like we’ve got two weapons out there on the edge, which is what you’ve got to have (in this kind of offense).”
Third-down success story
The Colonels continue to have a tremendous amount of success moving the chains on third down.
EKU has a 52.4 percent conversion percent on third down, which leads the Ohio Valley Conference and ranks 10th nationally (FCS).
The Colonels were seven-for-14 on third down against Morehead State last week and have converted at least 50 percent of third downs in every game this season, except the loss at Louisville.
EKU was 12-of-22 on third downs against Coastal Carolina and 9-of-14 in a season-opening win over Robert Morris.