CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The Eastern Kentucky football team made history Saturday night with its first win as a member of the ASUN Conference, defeating Western Carolina 31-28 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.
The victory marked EKU's second straight victory over the Catamounts and first win in Cullowhee since 1988.
Eastern Kentucky amassed 361 yards of total offense, with quarterback Parker McKinney accounting for 238 of those through the air and 35 more on the ground. On defense, Matthew Jackson led the way with 11 tackles. Mo Edwards, Jr., nabbed six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.
"You never saw our kids panic," said head coach Walt Wells. "We talk all the time about not looking at the scoreboard, to just keep playing and the game will tell you at the end what the score is. They just kept playing and it impresses me that they had that in them."
A pair of field goals in the first quarter gave Western Carolina an early 6-0 lead, but the Colonels capped a 12-play, 65-yard drive on their second possession with a three-yard Da'Joun Hewitt touchdown run to move in front, 7-6. The Catamounts moved back on top midway through the second quarter and were driving late in the period when Roy Baker stepped in front of a WCU pass and returned it inside the Catamount 10-yard line. Six plays later, Hewitt plunged over the goal line for his second score to put Eastern Kentucky up 14-13 with 20 seconds remaining in the half.
EKU stretched the lead to 21-13 when Edwards, Jr., hauled in a nine-yard pass from McKinney in the back corner of the end zone with 7:22 to play in the third quarter. Western Carolina responded with a 10-play drive to cut the Colonel lead to 21-20 with 4:17 left in the quarter, but Hewitt broke loose for an 18-yard score less than two minutes later for his third touchdown of the night. Jaden Woods closed the third quarter with the Colonels' second interception of the night and EKU capitalized with a 21-yard field goal from Patrick Nations to push the lead to 31-20 with 11:09 remaining in the game.
Western Carolina mounted a comeback effort late in the fourth quarter, scoring on a one-yard quarterback keeper and converting the ensuing two-point conversion to make the score 31-28 with 3:18 to play. Hewitt churned out a pair of first downs before EKU punted the ball back to the Catamounts with 15 seconds left. WCU drove to the Colonel 39, but a 56-yard field goal attempt fell short.
The Colonels hit the road against next Saturday when they travel to Louisville for a 7 p.m. kickoff.