Coming off a 5-6 record in 2011, the Hornets football team was anxious to kick off the 2012 season. Last year, the team fell short in the first three games, including the season opener against the Tigers of Fort Hays State, 27-17. That wasn’t the case when the Hornets looked for revenge in the season opener against the Tigers last Thursday night at Welch Stadium. They won 41-18.
“I’ve been doing this for so long, and I have all the confidence in the world in my teammates. We’re anxious to get this game going, but not nervous,” said third year starting senior quarterback, Tyler Eckenrode, management information systems major, before the game.
But with all that confidence, Eckenrode still didn’t expect that he would go 23-37 for 414 yards and two touchdowns.
“To be honest it’s my surrounding cast because I’m a very average player,” he said. “My coaches and my team make me decent. Any statistic, it’s those guys.”
Eckenrode and the offensive unit took the opening possession and drove it all the way down the field, consisting of 13 plays, 80 yards, and ending in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Eckenrode to sophomore running back Jordan Tice.
After forcing a turnover on downs, the Hornets responded with another touchdown, this one a 9-yard scamper by quarterback Tyler Eckenrode. The touchdown put the Hornets up 14-0.
In the second quarter both defenses tightened up, each trading a field goal. The Hornets headed into the half with a 17-3 lead thanks, in part, to a stellar first half by the defensive unit.
“We knew coming in they had a good offense,” said senior middle linebacker and business administration major Ben Carlson. “We just came in there and said we were going to get a three and out, especially in the second quarter when we had a few turnovers.”
Trying not to repeat last year’s season opener loss, where they failed to capitalize on 17-7 lead in the first half, the Hornets came out even stronger in the second half. They made two field goals and a 1-yard touchdown run by junior Dozie Iwuagwa. The Hornets led 27-12 heading into the fourth quarter.
Senior Derwin Hall opened up the fourth quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run that put the Hornets up 34-12. In the very next possession, Eckenrode connected with junior Ray Ray Davis on a 23-yard touchdown, pushing the score to 41-12.
Hall led the ground game with 55 yards off of just 12 carries and a score. Tice came in second with 53 yards off of 14 carries. Senior Shjuan Richardson led the receiving group with 148 yards off of six catches. Davis hauled in 84 yards from four catches.
The defensive side of the ball responded to a few turnovers in the second half to hold the Tigers back. Senior Julian Dozier led the way with seven total tackles, while junior Chris Poston finished in second with five. Senior Kevin Gaddis hauled in the only interception on the defensive side for the Hornets.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” said Garin Higgins, head coach. “We turned the ball over, missed some opportunities, and those are things we’ve got to get cleaned up.”
With their first victory of the season under their belts, the Hornets have confidence as they head into next week’s matchup on the road against Nebraska-Kearney, who are coming off a 24-14 loss to Washburn.