When freshman kicker Eli Kuhns nailed a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter of the game against Lincoln University this Saturday, not only did he tie the school record for the longest field goal, he also put the Emporia State Hornets up 34-13. ESU beat the Blue Tigers, 37-26, at Welch Stadium.
“You can’t really think negatively about it (heading up to the kick),” Kuhns, a nursing major, said. “I just thought I could make it.”
But what Kuhns didn’t expect is that not only would he tie the school record for longest field goal, he would also tie for most field goals made in a game with a total of four. The special teams unit also broke a MIAA record with seven field goals by three different kickers.
The offense exploded in the first quarter as Derwin Hall, senior running back, rushed two touchdowns and Derek Jonas, senior punter and kicker, scored a field goal, pushing the Hornets to a 17-0 lead. The shutout in the first quarter made it the fifth time the Hornets have held their opponent scoreless in the opening quarter this year.
“We would like to get that going all four quarters, but if we can get it for one quarter then we will take that,” said Jordan Sanders, senior linebacker and sociology major.
Lincoln responded with an 18-yard touchdown pass to open up the second quarter but was blocked on the extra point attempt. After that, the offense flipped a switch and missed several opportunities to put the game away, coming away with three field goals at the hands of Kuhns and Jonas and a safety to go into the half, 28-6.
In the second half, ESU relied heavily on the legs of their kickers. Kuhns nailed two more field goals in the third quarter, including his 51-yarder, while the Blue Tigers tried to put a dip in the scoreboard with a 4-yard touchdown run.
“Offensively, I thought we executed until we got to the redzone, had too many drops, most drops we had all year,” said Head Coach Garin Higgins. “That’s what was disappointing about this win.”
The Blue Tigers fought back with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but in the end, ESU was victorious over the 0-5 Blue Tigers.
But the Hornets seemed to hit a wall Saturday with several missed opportunities. Senior quarterback Tyler Eckenrode still managed to throw for 197 yards, going 22-36. Hall led the ground attack with the only two offensive scores from his six carries. Senior receiver Shjuan Richardson quietly hauled in seven catches for 66 yards.
On the defensive side, the Hornets held their own as they forced two interceptions. Sanders caught one of those and led the way with nine total tackles. Senior defensive back Jeff Richards hauled in the other interception in the first quarter.
Thanks to a seven field goal performance and a blocked extra point, the special teams helped advance the Hornets to their first 5-0 record since 2003.
The Hornets look to extend their record to 6-0 when they travel to Bolivar, Mo. to take on Southwest Baptist at 2 p.m. Saturday.