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Colonels Top North Alabama in UAC Opener

EKU Athletics

FLORENCE, Ala. – September 30, 2023

EKU opened up a 22-point halftime lead, then withstood North Alabama’s rally attempt to earn a 32-22 victory in its United Athletic Conference opener on Saturday night.

The Colonels sprinted out of the gate as Parker McKinney hit Hunter Brown for a 60-yard strike on the first play from scrimmage, then scored two plays later on a keeper from eight yards out. EKU added a two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead just 68 seconds into the contest.

EKU took a two-score lead on its next possession as McKinney found Jaden Smith streaking down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown pass. North Alabama answered quickly, however, cutting the lead to eight with a 40-yard touchdown pass with 7:37 left in the first quarter.

The Colonels struck again in the second quarter as Joshua Carter capped a nine-play, 90-yard drive with a four-yard rushing touchdown at the 10:10 mark. EKU’s defense forced its first turnover of the night on UNA’s ensuing possession when Jeremiah Bailey deflected a pass into the arms of Gabe Fletcher. EKU took advantage of the interception four plays later when McKinney connected with Braedon Sloan for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 7:25 to play in the second quarter as the Colonels took a 22-point lead into halftime.

North Alabama scored the only points of the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown toss to make the score 29-14 Colonels with 6:47 left in the period.

EKU’s defense rose to the challenge in the fourth quarter. The Colonels forced turnovers on three consecutive UNA drives, turning the Lions away twice inside the Colonel red zone. Marvion Field punched the ball free at the EKU three-yard line and Mike Smith Jr. fell on the fumble to keep EKU’s lead at 15 points. On North Alabama’s next possession, the Lions drove to the Colonels’ 10 before being backed up by penalties. Smith Jr. notched his second turnover of the quarter when he snagged a UNA pass at the five-yard line and returned it 25 yards. EKU turned the interception into three points as Patrick Nations converted a 28-yard field goal to make the score 32-14 Colonels with 7:27 remaining.

UNA’s next drive ended when Logan Blake recovered Frank Lee’s strip sack with 5:46 left in the game. The Lions managed to cut the lead to 32-22 with a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final two minutes, but Jakob Dixon recovered the onside kick to seal the victory for EKU.

McKinney completed 14-of-21 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Carter anchored the ground attack with 138 yards on 20 carries, both career highs. Smith led EKU’s receivers with four catches for 75 yards and a score.

Blake posted a season-high 15 tackles with seven solo stops, while Nic Cheeley finished with a career-high 11 tackles. Lee notched two sacks and a forced fumble as the Colonels forced a season-high four turnovers in the win.

The Colonels are off next week before hosting Tarleton State for Homecoming on Oct. 14 at 3:00 p.m.

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