By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Andrew Lloyd had to wait more than a year, but when he finally got the opportunity to showcase his abilities he certainly made a big first impression.
The redshirt junior kicker was five-for-five on extra-point attempts, kicked a 37-yard field goal and averaged 59 yards on kickoffs Thursday as the Colonels rolled past Robert Morris, 38-6, in the season opener.
Lloyd’s performance was the highlight of a solid overall performance from EKU’s special teams unit in the convincing victory.
“It was a gameday decision and we went with Andrew,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “Luke (Pray) and Andrew were neck-and-neck all spring and all camp. We just made the decision to go with Andrew. He kicked the first (kick)off and it was decent. From that point on, it was a dream. It was hitting four-second hangs and getting it in the end zone.”
Lloyd transferred to EKU last season from Shenandoah University, which is located in Winchester, Va. — the kicker’s hometown. He had to sit out last season after hitting all four of his field goals attempts and 40-of-43 extra point attempts in 2011 for the Hornets.
His addition to the roster has provided a much-needed boast to a kicking game that has struggled mightily at times in recent years.
Last season, the Colonels connected on just eight-of-17 field goal attempts and had just five touchbacks.
In the win over Robert Morris, Lloyd had three touchbacks.
“That’s the best I’ve slept since Taylor Long graduated (in 2008),” Hood said of the kicking game. “That was refreshing because I feel like that’s been our Achilles Heel the past three years.”
Pray, a senior, has handled the kicking duties for most of the past two seasons. He averaged 55.4 yards a kickoff last year and just 51.8 yards a kickoff in 2011.
In the past two seasons, the Colonels have had a total of just eight touchbacks.
Pray has also connected on just 17-of-34 career field goal attempts.
Lloyd didn’t get much practice time with the top special teams units last season while he sat out. But, he turned heads in the offseason and has rocketed up the depth chart.
“Once spring hit, he started getting reps in a competition environment,” Hood said. “He really shined.”
The Colonels shined in other special teams areas last Thursday.
David Carter blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter and Carter and Devin Borders teamed up to block an extra-point attempt just before halftime.
EKU got 26 yards on three punt returns, an average of 8.7 yards.
Last year, the Colonels averaged just 4.3 yards a punt return, the worst mark in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I thought all phases of the special teams were really good,” Hood said.