RICHMOND, Va. – In the opening round of the 2007 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, #6 Richmond defeated #9 Eastern Kentucky, 31-14. The Spiders (10-2) advance to the quarterfinals to face #11 Wofford while the Colonels conclude their season at 9-3.
Richmond, the CAA co-champs, rushed for 278 yards in the first ever meeting between the two programs. Tim Hightower led the Spiders with 180 rushing yards and a score while setting the single season Richmond rushing record.
The OVC champion Colonels struggled to find their rhythm throughout the first half. Richmond capitalized on an Eastern interception to pull ahead early in the second quarter, 10-0. Hightower capped the 10-play drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge. The Spiders added another touchdown later in the quarter when Eric Ward ran a quarterback draw around the left end for a nine-yard score.
Eastern finally responded right before intermission to cut the deficit to 17-7. Freshman wide receiver Evan Cromer sparked the drive by catching a pair of passes, an 18-yarder from junior quarterback Allan Holland and a nine-yarder from senior back-up quarterback Josh Greco. Senior running back Bobby Washington then put the Colonels on the board thanks to a two-yard touchdown rush with 43 seconds showing on the clock.
The Colonel defense kept EKU in the game early in the third quarter by stopping the Spiders on back-to-back fourth down plays. Richmond’s defense was up to the task though and forced another interception on Eastern’s second drive of the half. The Spiders turned that turnover into seven points when Josh Vaughan burst through the line for a 40-yard touchdown run.
EKU made one final charge on the Spiders. Greco led the Colonels on a drive late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. The senior ran for a first down on 4th-and-15, and later converted another fourth down with a five-yard touchdown pass to senior Quinton Williams.
However, on the ensuing possession the Spiders again drove down the field, this time putting the game out of reach. On 2nd-and-goal, Ward threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Grayson, making it 31-14. Neither team would score again.
This was Eastern Kentucky’s first playoff appearance in 10 years. Eastern is now 17-17 all-time in 18 playoff appearances while capturing the FCS national championship in 1979 and 1982.
--Eastern Kentucky turned the ball over a season-high four times while Richmond did not commit a turnover. This was the first time all season the Colonel defense did not force a turnover. Coming into the game, EKU led the nation in turnover margin at +22.
--Senior Josh Greco completed a 44-yard pass to senior Quinton Williams in the fourth quarter, his longest completion of the season.
--Junior starting quarterback Allan Holland left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. He finished the season with 1,990 yards passing.
--Eastern’s nine wins are the most for the program since 1995. The Colonels captured their first OVC title since 1997.