For The Independent
J.J. Jude didn't know until Saturday morning he would be getting most of the carries in Eastern Kentucky's game against Morehead State.
The former Johnson Central star, now an EKU redshirt-freshman running back, made his second start of the season a memorable one Saturday night. He ran 33 times for 195 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday night's 56-24 win at Jayne Stadium.
It was some homecoming for Jude, and not just because he scored his first touchdown in maroon and white.
“I didn't feel like we were going to get this heavy a run, but we did,” Jude said. “… Anytime you can play in front of your friends and family, it's just a great atmosphere to play in.”
Jude averaged 5.9 yards per carry, and scored from two, five, 11 and 17 yards out. But the play he remembers most was a 32-yarder down the right sideline late in the third quarter because he nearly lost his balance about 15 yards before he finished the run at the Morehead 26.
“I got my first touchdown tonight,” Jude said. “That (32-yard) run was a big run for me.”
EKU head coach Dean Hood said Jude had the right skill set.
“He's one of our most straight ahead, physical guys (and had) such great balance,” Hood said. “You think he's down, and he puts a pinkie in the ground and he keeps going.”
Jude's journey through the Morehead defense wasn't the only reason the Colonels won. Junior quarterback Jared McClain threw for 250 yards and two scores to Devin Borders.
“We stuck to the game plan, spread (the offense) out a little bit,” Borders said. “Credit the (offensive line) for blocking up front. Just a great job by everybody all around.”
Hood said having the 6-foot-5 Borders, 6-4 Jeff Glover and 6-4 Nathan Watts certainly helped.
“If you’re going to stop the run, which Morehead did at points in the game, then you've got to be able to throw it up to a wide receiver that can make some big plays for you,” the Colonels’ coach said.
Morehead State fell to 0-4 on the season. Head coach Rob Tenyer wanted to establish more of a running game, but it didn’t happen: the Eagles gained just 37 yards on the ground.
“We were having success really throwing it,” Tenyer said. “(EKU was) giving us a lot of things. We need to be able to run the football a little bit. We can't throw the ball 59 times a game and expect to win, especially when you have three turnovers.”
Eagles’ quarterback Austin Gehafer was 27-of-42 for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
Eastern — or rather Jude — made things look easy at first.
After exchanging stops — a three-and-punt for the Colonels and Gehafer’s interception by Chris Owens — Jude was everywhere.
As in five carries for 39 yards (McClain's 20-yard pass to Glover was the only other play), including the last two for the touchdown with 7:52 left in the first quarter.
Eastern Kentucky (2-2) could play some defense, too.
An early example came midway through the first quarter, when the Colonels' Jason Fergerson blocked a Pat DiSalvio punt, which Shawn Shupperd recovered. Eight plays later Jude was in from five yards away after an amlost five minute drive.
The key play of the drive had little to do with Jude. On a fourth-and-10 on the Eagles’ 30, McClain turned in a 360-degree backfield spin and 16-yard run.
Gehafer provided the vast majority of the Eagles' offense in the first half. He completed 21-of-29 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, a 32-yarder to Kitaro Lewis with 44 seconds left in the first quarter and to Rees Macshara from seven yards out with 1:17 to go in the half.
The Eagles ended the Colonels' last drive when Trey Watkins intercepted McClain in the end zone with 6.8 seconds left.
Hood reminded his players at halftime that Saturday was a rivalry game.
“I told them we should not be screaming, yelling 'what the heck's wrong with us,’” Hood said. “This is a rivalry game, and (Morehead State) just played the half of their life. They did a great job. We didn't play bad.”
After Luke Boyd's 44-yard field goal a little more than four minutes into the third quarter closed EKU's lead to 21-17, the Colonels ran away.
McClain found Borders for a four-yard score with 5:33 left in the third. They connected for 14-yard touchdown a little less than three minutes later, and Jude cruised around right end from 17 yards out.
NOTES: Eastern Kentucky improved its series record over Morehead State to 51-16-4 … Jude's running gave him the team lead with 268 yards … Three local high school products were on the MSU roster: redshirt freshman offensive lineman Zach Whitt (Fairview), freshman receiver Mason Rutherford (Fairview) and redshirt senior defensive lineman Aaron Meadows (Bath County) … Besides Jude, the only other Colonel with a local tie was sophomore long snapper Hayden Kiser (Lawrence County).