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August 29, 2013

EKU thumps RMU in season opener

Odds are that when the Robert Morris defense goes to sleep this weekend, the Colonials will be tossing and turning fitfully thanks to the nightmares Jared McClain gave them Thursday night.

The Eastern Kentucky quarterback used his legs, his arm, and one play, even his hands, to burn Robert Morris as EKU won the season opener 38-6 Thursday night in Richmond, Kentucky.

Coming off a season where they just missed the FCS playoffs, Eastern Kentucky started the new year strong, forcing two three-and-outs to start the game. EKU turned those abbreviated Robert Morris possessions into points, as McClain directed a two touchdown drives to give the Colonels an early 14-0 lead.

It was 21-0 EKU, thanks to McClain's second touchdown pass of the game, when Robert Morris finally got on the scoreboard. Paul Jones, making his Robert Morris debut, directed a 12-play, 75-yard drive that included a 16-yard pass to Donte Jeter on fourth down. The drive ended with Jones' 20-yard touchdown pass to Alex Caratelli on the freshman receiver's first snap of the game.

Robert Morris appeared to be in strong position to go into halftime with a little bit of momentum thanks to that touchdown pass, but McClain took EKU 73 yards in just 1:56, and the Colonels got a 2-yard run from Caleb Watkins to take a 28-6 halftime lead.

Despite the three-score deficit, Robert Morris came out strong to start the second half, forcing a 3-and-out and launching a drive into EKU territory. But on 1st-and-20 at the EKU 34-yard line, Jones' pass for Duane Mitchell was tipped and intercepted by Johnny Joseph. The pick ended RMU's best chance at a score in the quarter, and EKU began to methodically salt the game away.

Eastern Kentucky's final touchdown came via McClain once again, as he ran in for an 8-yard score to cap a 12-play, 66-yard drive. Andrew Lloyd added a 37-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to cap the scoring. McClain was 16-of-21 for 155 yards and two touchdowns, ran 12 times for 44 yards and two more scores, and also caught two passes for 33 yards.

It was the fifth straight season opening loss for Robert Morris, which last won the first game the season back in 2008 when it defeated Morehead State 27-13. Jones finished the game 16-of-28 for 177 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked four times and lost a fumble on one of them. Deontae Howard ran for 58 yards on 13 carries as RMU struggled to establish the run. RMU had just 55 total yards on the ground, a paltry amount compared to EKU's 207 rushing yards. Mike Cook led the defense with 10 tackles.

Robert Morris returns home next Saturday to host Morgan State for the first home game of the 2013 season.

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