It’s good to be home.
That had to be one of a million sentiments the Govs football team felt after they ended a 10-game losing streak by beating the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels at home, 23-17, Ohio Valley Conference opener Saturday, Sept. 24. The Govs’ 23 points, their highest offensive production so far this season, was primarily the result of spectacular play by junior wide receiver Devin Stark.
Stark caught three-touchdown passes. He was the first Govs’ receiver to catch three touchdowns since Daryl Miller did it against Tennessee Tech in 2008. He finished the game with six catches for 79 yards, including the three touchdowns.
“Me and Stark are really kind of coming together. We are starting to know exactly what the other one is thinking,” said Jake Ryan, senior quarterback. “He made a couple of great catches for me tonight. The diving one in the end zone was by far one of the best I’ve seen. He is a great player and our chemistry seems to be working right now.”
Although Stark was his primary target, Ryan completed passes to six different players. Ryan completed 13 of 27 pass attempts for 133 yards with one interception and three touchdowns. The Govs offense was equally potent on the ground. Ryan White, senior running back, had 27 carries for 132 yards. It was White’s 11th career 100-yard game.
For the first time this season, the Govs started the game with a lead. After getting to the Colonels 16-yard line on their second-offensive drive of the game, Ryan launched a pass into the end zone which Stark dove for and snatched with his finger tips.
On the ensuing kick off, the Govs pinned the Colonels on the one-yard line. When EKU tried to run the ball on first down, senior safety Amius Smith made a tackle in the back field for a safety. With seven minutes left in the first quarter, the Govs led 9-0.
The lead vanished in the second quarter. The Colonels made it 9-3 with a 36-yard field goal at the 13:13 mark. After two failed scoring drives by the Govs, the Colonels took the lead when junior quarterback T.J. Pryor threw a 52-yard bomb to junior receiver Tyrone Gourd.
Unlike the first two games of the season, the Govs not only maintained their poise, they made key plays to take back the game.
Stark caught his second touchdown pass with less than two minutes until halftime. Then, starting with the ball in the third quarter, the Govs drove 76 yards on 11 plays to score again with a Stark touchdown.
Ahead 23-10, the Govs went into the fourth quarter rushing the ball to kill time and hoping the defense would hold.
The Govs’ defense had not played a flawless game, but up until that point had done a solid job of keeping the Colonels offense at bay.
“Our defense had a phenomenal game. They kept them out of the end zone for the most part except for there at the end, but that was kind of a prevent deal,” Ryan said.
“They had a couple turnovers that were real big for us, keeping there offense off the field. We hadn’t had that up until now.”
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Pryor found Gould again for an 11-yard touchdown that brought the Colonels within a touchdown.
However, the Colonels failed to execute an onside kick and the Govs ran out the clock for the win.
Although the Colonels produced 383 yards of offense, the Govs defense got a safety, an interception, four sacks, eight tackles for a loss and recovered a fumble.
“We had to do three things to win the game tonight and we accomplished all three of them,” Christophel said. “We said one. We have got to win the game at the line of scrimmage. Two, we had to win the turnover game, we did. And three, we had to win the kicking game, which we did. It was an unbelievable game of punting by Ben Campbell.”
“I didn’t say a whole lot to them after the game, but I did say I was proud of them. The one thing I reminded them of, is what our goals were. We accomplished every single one of our goals tonight. We accomplish those goals, we win football games.” TAS