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EKU uses big plays, Booth’s four touchdowns to post 49-17 win over Western Carolina in Opportunity Bowl

Eastern Kentucky University featured scoring plays of 94, 69, 63 and 66 yards during a 49-17 win over Western Carolina in the Opportunity Bowl on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.

Alonzo Booth rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns to lead EKU, which finished the season with a 3-6 record. Booth also caught a 69-yard scoring pass from quarterback Isaiah Velez to highlight a four-touchdown performance.

The game turned on a series of big plays in the second quarter. With EKU up 7-3 and having driven to the WCU 36-yard line, Ricky Palao picked up a fumble and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown to put the Catamounts ahead 10-7. On the ensuing kickoff, the Colonels quickly regained the lead when Davion Ross returned the kick 94 yards for a touchdown.

EKU players and coaches celebrate after their 49-17 win over Western Carolina in the Opportunity Bowl on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium. (EKU photo)

Ross’ kickoff return for a touchdown was the first for an EKU player since Jared Sanders took it 90 yards to the house at Austin Peay on Nov. 12, 2016.

After Western Carolina (0-2) was forced to punt on its next possession, EKU extended its lead. On the sixth play of the drive, Velez found Booth over the middle near the WCU 40 yard line. The 250-pound running back accelerated across the field and turned it into a 69-yard touchdown catch.

EKU led 21-10 at halftime as the Colonels held the Catamounts to 33 yards passing and 104 yards of total offense in the first half. Meanwhile, EKU rolled up 229 yards of offense, including 171 through the air.

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The score remained 21-10 until early in the fourth quarter when two more big plays put the game out of reach. On the third play of a drive that began at the EKU 10 yard line, Velez lateraled to Jackson Beerman, who then threw down the right sideline to Jacquez Jones.  Jones completed the play for a 63-yard touchdown catch and run.

Daulson Fitzpatrick intercepted the ball for Eastern at the WCU 34-yard line on the second play of the Catamounts’ next possession. Velez hooked up with Keyion Dixon for 24 yards on the first play. Booth then scored from 6-yards out to make it 31-10.

Velez added a 66-yard touchdown pass to Beerman with 11:23 remaining. The redshirt freshman quarterback playing in only his second collegiate game finished 18-for-32 for 310 yards. He also tossed two touchdown passes.

In addition to throwing a touchdown pass, Beerman caught five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. Jones collected five catches for 100 yards.

EKU totaled 590 yards of offense while holding WCU to 255 yards. The Colonels converted 9-of-17 third-down attempts.

From Eastern Kentucky University

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