Eastern Kentucky falls in season opener

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – After a very competitive first half, host Missouri State took control in the second half to earn a 31-9 victory over the Eastern Kentucky University football team Friday afternoon. This was the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Eastern Kentucky trailed at the half, 17-9, but quickly had a chance to turn things around early in the third quarter. The Colonels forced a three-and-out on Missouri State’s opening possession. The Bears lined up to punt only to see senior Shannon Davis cleanly block the ball, giving EKU possession at the Missouri State 27-yard line.

Unfortunately, the Colonels did not capitalize. Eastern couldn’t convert a 3rd-and-2, and then senior Logan O’Connor missed a 38-yard field goal attempt. O’Connor made all three field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder into the wind, in the first half.

From there, Missouri State responded with two consecutive touchdown drives to pull away. On Missouri State’s first score, the Bears marched 80 yards on nine plays. Quarterback Cody Kirby capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

Three minutes later, Missouri State needed just two plays to score. Starting at the EKU 36-yard line thanks to a 22-yard punt return, Kirby hooked up with Jermaine Saffold for a 28-yard scoring pass.

The EKU offense sputtered throughout the second half. The Colonels did not earn a first down in the third quarter and also finished 0-of-7 on third downs in the half.

Eastern Kentucky returns to action next Saturday, Sept. 11 at Louisville. It will mark the first meeting between the two in-state opponents since 1991.

--The game was originally scheduled to be played on Thursday night. However, the game was delayed for more than three hours before being postponed until Friday afternoon due to lightning.

--Junior defensive back Jeremy Caldwell, who was named to the initial Buck Buchanan Award watch list, was limited to just a couple of plays in the fourth quarter. Caldwell is recovering from a hernia.

--Sophomore quarterback T.J. Pryor threw for a career-high 315 yards. Pryor had a chance for a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but had a tipped pass intercepted.

--The Colonels were held to 35 yards rushing on 25 carries (1.4 ypr).

--EKU has not won a season opener since 2000.

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