RICHMOND, Ky. – The Eastern Kentucky University football team intercepted four passes on the way to a 31-25 win over UT Martin on Homecoming today at Roy Kidd Stadium. Sophomores Jeremy Caldwell and Patrick McClellan both picked off two passes for the No. 23 Colonels (4-2, 4-1 OVC).
Despite intercepting four passes through the first three quarters, EKU led by only eight points after the Skyhawks (2-5, 1-3 OVC) scored a touchdown with 9:50 left to play. UTM added another touchdown with 3:47 to go to cut the deficit to five points, 24-19.
UT Martin then forced Eastern to punt with just under two minutes to go, but the Skyhawks muffed the return and gave the ball back to the Colonels. McClellan recovered the fumble for Eastern Kentucky at the UTM four-yard line.
Both teams tacked on late touchdowns to set the final score. Senior C.J. Walker scored from two yards out to stretch the lead to 31-19. Skyhawk quarterback Cade Thompson capped a seven-play, 58-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown toss as the horn sounded.
Eastern Kentucky quarterback T.J. Pryor completed 19-of-33 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Garnett Phelps caught seven passes for a career-best 118 yards. Walker ran for a season-high 84 yards.
Thompson finished 30-for-44 with four interceptions, three touchdown passes and 334 yards. The Skyhawks out-gained EKU 407-to-361 and held the ball for almost five more minutes than the Colonels. However, Eastern converted 50 percent on third down and committed only one turnover, compared to five for UTM.
The Colonels found pay dirt on their opening drive. On third-and-two at the EKU 47, Pryor hooked up with Garnett Phelps for 16 yards. Two plays later, Pryor found junior Evan Cromer for 10 yards and an EKU first down at the UTM 23-yard line. Walker gained 11 on the ground before Pryor found junior Shannon Davis in the right front corner from 12 yards out to cap the scoring drive.
UT Martin looked poised to tie the game as the Skyhawks marched to the EKU 23-yard line on their first possession of the game. However, Thompson’s pass was picked off at the 12 by Caldwell to end the threat.
McClellan ended UTM’s next drive with an interception of his own. McClellan picked off Thompson at the UTM 39 yard line. The Colonels made it three-for-three on UT Martin’s next possession. Caldwell picked off his second pass of the first quarter, this time at the EKU 45-yard line.
The Colonels capitalized on the turnover. On the first play of the ensuing drive, the Pryor found Phelps down the right side line from 45 yards out. Phelps cut back inside and dove across the goal line for six. Junior Logan O’Connor’s point-after made it 14-0 in favor of the Colonels.
The first Skyhawk drive that didn’t result in a turnover resulted in a touchdown for the visitors. Thompson completed an eight-play, 60-yard drive with a 10-yard scoring pass to Kenny Jones with 12:27 remaining in the second quarter. Thompson kept the drive alive by completing an 11-yard pass to Eunique Williams on 3rd-and-10 from the EKU 38. The extra-point attempt was blocked by junior Andrew Soucy to keep the Colonels in front 14-6.
Eastern forced UT Martin to punt from its own end-zone on its first possession of the second half. The Colonels took advantage of the good field position. On the first play, Walker carried for 39 yards to the UTM nine yard line. Three plays later, sophomore H.B. Banjoman finished off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. O’Connor’s point-after gave EKU a 21-6 lead.
The Skyhawks converted a 4th-and-three near midfield to keep their next drive going. UTM drove to the EKU 21-yard line before Thompson threw his fourth interception of the game. McClellan picked off his second pass at the 14-yard line.
UT Martin closed the gap to eight with 9:50 left in the ball game. On 4th-and-10 from the EKU 17, Thompson found Mike Hicks over the middle for 13 yards. Three plays later, Thompson dove in from a yard out. Tom Hansen’s point-after capped the 13-play, 68-yard drive and made it 21-13.
Pryor completed passes of 17 and 16 yards on a drive that concluded with an O’Connor 41-yard field goal for a 24-13 Colonel lead. Thompson tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Milligan with 3:47 left in the game. Brandyn Young’s rush on the two-point conversion attempt, that would have made it a three-point game, was snuffed out by the Eastern defense.
The Colonels will hit the road to face Austin Peay next Saturday. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
--Eastern Kentucky scored on its opening drive of the game for the first time this season. The opening drive touchdown was the first time EKU scored a touchdown in the first half at home this season.
--Sophomore Jeremy Caldwell’s two first quarter interceptions were the fifth and sixth picks of the season for the sophomore. He now has nine for his career.
--Sophomore Patrick McClellan’s first quarter interception was the first of his career. He intercepted a second pass in the third quarter.
--Junior Andrew Soucy’s second quarter block of UTM’s point-after attempt was Eastern’s seventh blocked kick of the season.
--Senior Garnett Phelps recorded his second career 100-yard receiving game, finishing with a career-best 118 yards.
--Sophomore H.B. Banjoman’s third quarter touchdown run was his second rushing score of the season, and the third of his career.
--Senior C.J. Walker posted a season best 84 rushing yards.
--Eastern Kentucky improved to 20-0 all-time against UT Martin.