Eastern Kentucky uses a big second half to surge past Eastern Illinois University

RICHMOND, Ky. - Josh Hayes’ interception late in the third quarter set up a nine play, 92-yard go-ahead drive to propel the Eastern Kentucky University football team to a 31-23 win over Eastern Illinois University on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.

With the game tied 17-17, a pair of big throws by Harry Woodberry put the Panthers deep in Colonel territory with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter. A bad snap on second and goal from EKU’s two-yard line was recovered by EIU, but pushed the Panthers all the way back to the 25. Woodberry went to the air on third down, but Hayes came down with the ball for his second interception of the year.

Starting from its own eight-yard line, Eastern Kentucky wasted no time marching down the field. Alphonso Howard connected with Neiko Creamer on a first down for 19 yards to get the Colonels to the 41-yard line. A nine-yard catch by Jaelin Carter and a pair of 7-yard runs by Jason Lewis got Eastern into Panther territory. Howard looked to the end zone before the end of the third quarter, drawing a pass interference to put the Colonels right outside of the red zone.

Two plays into the fourth quarter, Carter went over a defender’s head to haul in an 18-yard touchdown to break the 17-all tie and put the Colonels ahead 24-17.

Driving with under nine minutes to go, LJ Scott turned on the jets to break off a 42-yard run to EIU’s 4-yard line. Four plays later, Carter ran into the end zone to extend the Colonels’ lead to two possessions, 31-17.

EIU responded promptly on its ensuing drive, as quarterback John Brantley ran nine yards for a touchdown to cap off a 7-play, 69-yard drive. Nick Bruno bounced the extra point off the upright, keeping the score 31-23 with 3:53 left to play.

EKU ran the clock down to 32 seconds before punting back to EIU. A sack by Tre Turner on the EIU 30-yard line ended any chance of the Panthers’ pulling off a miracle drive to tie the game.

Eastern Kentucky (4-4, 3-2 OVC) was led by the two-headed monster of Carter and Scott. Carter had two receiving touchdowns for 61 yards, along with his rushing touchdown. Scott ran for a career-high 151 yards and recorded his fifth touchdown of the season. Cornelius Floyd and Hayes led the way defensively, both recording an interception apiece.

The Colonels got off to a hot start when EIU’s first play from scrimmage was intercepted by Floyd at their own 21-yard line. Eastern settled for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead early.

The Panthers found success on a drive midway through the first quarter, using 10 plays to march 75 yards into Colonel territory. Eastern Kentucky’s defense forced an incompletion on third and seven from the 15-yard line, making EIU kick a field goal to tie the game.

After a pass interference call kept EIU’s next drive alive, John Brantley rushed out of the pocket for a gain of 24 to EKU’s 41-yard line. Two plays later, Isaiah Johnson ran 34-yards to the house to put the Panthers up 10-3 with 3:27 left in the first quarter.

With time ticking down in the second quarter, Austin Scott found Jackson Beerman for 21 yards to get onto the opposite side of the field. Five plays later, Scott found Carter wide open for a 34-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10 apiece with 1:48 remaining in the half.

EIU immediately bounced back, taking the kickoff 50 yards to the EKU 29. After a five-yard completion on first down, Harry Woodberry connected with Aaron Gooch for 23 yards to Colonels one-yard line. Johnson punched the ball into the end zone to put the Panthers back on top 17-10 going into halftime.

Carter helped Eastern Kentucky establish a drive midway through the third quarter, ripping a 13-yard run to get the Colonels to the EIU 48. LJ Scott came in for the next play and shredded two defenders on his way to a 48-yard touchdown to tie the game with 7:33 to go in the third quarter.

Eastern Illinois (2-7, 2-4 OVC) was led by Johnson’s 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Brantley threw for 127 yards and contributed a rushing touchdown.

EKU will take to the road to play at Austin Peay on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.