TERRE HAUTE, IND. – The Colonels thought they had rallied to tie the game early in the fourth quarter against Indiana State (1-2) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The celebration, though, was short-lived.
Keyion Dixon caught what appeared-to-be a 17-yard touchdown pass from Conor Blount in the right front corner of the end zone.
The play didn’t stand.
A video review confirmed that the junior wide receiver had stepped out-of-bounds before catching the ball.
“There would have been a whole different outcome,” EKU running back Daryl McCleskey said of the overturned touchdown. “The ball didn’t bounce our way.”
The Colonels never got another chance to take the lead again.
The Sycamores got the ball back and methodically drained almost eight minutes off the clock, scored a touchdown and picked up a 19-7 win in non-conference match-up of teams receiving votes in national Football Championship Subdivision Polls.
EKU avoided being shutout for the second-straight game, but couldn’t come up with a hard-fought road win.
“Every time something great happened for us, it felt like something negative happened,” EKU coach Mark Elder said.
It was a frustrating loss for the Colonels.
EKU had just 248 yards of offense, but was in position to take the lead in the second half.
The Colonels hadn’t scored in six quarters (more than 100 minutes) before Alonzo Booth found the end zone on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter that cut the Indiana State lead to 10-7.
EKU had been held without a point since the final minutes of a season-opening win over Valpo on Aug. 29.
The Sycamores responded with a field goal, but EKU put together another solid drive.
“We started to get some explosive plays. We started playing Colonel football,” McCleskey said. “We’ve got to get started earlier. Our real team showed up in the second half.”
McCleskey had a nine-yard run and a 15-yard catch to get things started. Blount scrambled out of the pocket to convert a fourth down, then hit L.J. Smith on a 13-yard pass.
At that point, Indiana State called a timeout.
“They were tired,” McCleskey said. “We were trying capitalize on them being winded.”
One play later, Dixon caught the would-be, go-ahead touchdown. Not only did the score not stand, the junior was flagged for illegal touching, which resulted in a loss of down.
Three plays later, Blount was stopped on 4th-and-1 on the ISU 8-yard line.
“We’ve got to clean up those things. We are just hurting ourselves,” Elder said. “Penalties probably cost of well over a 100 yards of field position. It’s hard to win a game when that happens.”
The Colonels had eight penalties for 59 yards and were also a combined 6-of-20 on third/fourth downs.
McCleskey finished with 101 yards on 13 carries, but EKU had the ball for only 25 minutes and got into the red zone just twice.
The Colonels had only two first downs on their first five possessions, but finally got something going late in the second quarter.
McCleskey got loose on a 43-yard run that put EKU at midfield. The Colonels moved into Indiana state territory for the first time in the game on the next play and moments later appeared to hit a big play in the passing game.
Blount connected with Alex Cabrera over the middle on a 31-yard pass. However, that completion was taken away because of an offensive pass interference call. Two plays later, Blount was sacked, setting up another punt.
The Colonels had only four first downs and 111 yards of total offense - almost half of which came on one run - in the first half.
The Sycamores took a 3-0 lead on a 42-yard field goal by Jerry Nunez with 7:01 left in the first quarter.
Indiana State pushed out to a 10-0 advantage when Chris Childers scored on a 1-yard run with 6:37 left in the second quarter.
McCleskey had three solid runs on the first possession of the second half, but that drive was also derailed by penalties. Alonzo Booth came up short on 3rd-and-1 and the Colonels tried a fake punt on fourth down.
Quarterback Dakota Allen, who had three kicks last week against Louisville, took the snap and was pulled down at the EKU 34-yard line.
“We play to win games. We don’t play to keep it close,” Elder said.
Indiana State wasn’t able to capitalize on the great field position, missing a 25-yard field goal.
ISU quarterback Ryan Boyle was 11-of-18 for 133 yards. Peterson Kerlegrand had 132 yards rushing and a touchdown, while Dante Hendrix caught three passes for 68 yards.
Blount was 15-of-23 for 83 yards. Smith and Matt Wilcox Jr., each had four catches for the Colonels.
EKU will look to snap a two-game losing streak next Saturday at Presbyterian.