MOREHEAD – Highlighted by three takeaways and 11 tackles for loss, the Morehead State University football team posted its first back-to-back shutouts since the 1979 season Saturday as the Eagles topped Davidson 34-0 in both teams’ Pioneer Football League openers at Jayne Stadium on Saturday.
The last back-to-back shutouts came in the middle of the 1979 campaign when MSU handed Austin Peay and UT Martin identical 7-0 defeats. The Eagles improved to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the league, blanking Kentucky Christian 28-0 last Saturday. Davidson fell to 0-3 and 0-1 in the conference and has still not won a PFL game since 2012.
“The defense will get a lot of credit, and deservedly so,” Head Coach Rob Tenyer said. “But I felt like we played a great team game today. The offense started a bit slow but then got going, the defense came up with some great stops and takeaways, we punted the ball well and we covered well on kickoffs too.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Colt Briggs recorded career-highs in tackles (10) and tackles for loss (3.5) and also forced a fumble. Junior linebacker Ryan Bennett led the squad with 12 stops, and junior linebacker Matthew Brewer contributed nine tackles, plus two in the backfield. Senior cornerback Trey Watkins and sophomore defender Braylyn Cook nabbed interceptions. The Eagles are now plus-8 in turnover margin in 2015.
“We made things simple, and we stuck to the game plan of defense,” Tenyer said. “We did a great job of communicating and being in the right position on the snap of the ball.”
Offensively, the Eagles led 7-0 after the first quarter but erupted for 20 in the second period to lead 27-0 at the break.
Junior quarterback Austin Gahafer completed 19 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns, marking his second four-TD game this year. He now has 11 scoring tosses in the last three games and is over 6,000 yards for his career.
Senior running back Rob Harden busted out for a career-best 108 yards on 16 carries, his first 100-yard effort.
“Rob has been a model citizen for our program, I was happy to see him with such a nice effort today,” Tenyer said.
Gahafer completed passes to six different receivers, including two scoring connections with senior slot man Justin Cornwall. Cornwall hauled in the first score of the day, an 11-yard tally, with 6:58 remaining in the first quarter. He then ripped off a 73-yard touchdown from Gahafer at the 14:05 mark of the second period, racing more than 50 yards down the right sideline after the catch. Cornwall accumulated a team-best 95 yards.
Junior slot receiver Jake Raymond caught the third TD, a 20-yarder in the third period, and junior wideout Darius Pritchett closed the day’s activity with a career-long 42-yard scoring strike with 1:27 left in the third. MSU was 3-of-3 in red-zone scoring chances.
Sophomore kicker Shavi Bash added field goals of 25 and a career-best 39 yards.
“Shavi did an excellent job on kickoffs, and I told him after he missed that 41-yard field goal high off the upright (in the middle of the second quarter), I wanted to see him come back with confidence,” Tenyer added. “He did. We got another good possession at the end of the first half, and he put one right down the middle.”
MSU generated 440 offensive yards and held the Wildcats to just 254. The Eagle defense also forced 10 punts.
Quarterback John Cook led the visitors with 72 rushing yards, while Ryan Felice made eight tackles.
Morehead State will travels to PFL foe Jacksonville for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Oct. 3.