By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
More than two years have passed, but for the players who were part of EKU’s epic come-from-behind victory at Burgess-Snow Field against Jacksonville State, the memories haven’t faded away.
It still remains fresh in their minds.
“That was probably the most memorable game I’ve ever been a part of in high school or college,” EKU senior linebacker Anthony Brown said of the Colonels’ 52-48 win on Nov. 5, 2011. “It was a great game to be a part of.”
It was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of one of the most storied Football Championship Subdivision programs.
The Colonels trailed by 24 points with 7:25 left in the fourth quarter.
But, EKU scored four times in a five-minute span to re-take the lead, including a 71-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Brown, then came up with a goal-line stand on the final play of the game to preserve an improbably victory.
“It was just a miracle game,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “We were blessed with some breaks. We were fortunate and blessed because you could play that game again from that point on a hundred times and we wouldn’t win that game again.”
The Colonels are set to return to Jacksonville State today for the first time since that stunning victory.
Game time is set for 4 p.m.
“Hopefully, it won’t come to that (kind of comeback) this week,” Brown said. “Hopefully we will win a little more convincingly.”
The Colonels have won three straight against Jacksonville State — and just like two years ago, this showdown of perennial Ohio Valley Conference powers will have postseason implications.
EKU (6-3, 4-1 OVC) and JSU (7-3, 3-2) are still in the hunt for a league title, but with Eastern Illinois (8-1, 5-0) seemingly set to run the table, five teams are left to battle for an at-large bid to the FCS Playoffs.
The winner of this game will keep its postseason hopes alive. The loser will likely be all but eliminated.
“We can’t lose,” EKU senior offensive lineman Justin Meredith said. “We know if we lose, its going to be real hard for us to get into the playoffs.”
The Colonels have been in must-win mode for a month.
Since a 42-7 loss at Eastern Illinois on Sept. 28 in Charleston, Ill., EKU has won four-straight and has out-scored its opponents by a combined score of 137-20.
Last week, the Colonels hammered Tennessee State, 44-0, at home.
“We’ve been in playoff mode for three or four weeks,” Brown said.
The defense has been the biggest key to EKU’s success during the winning streak.
The Colonels have limited opponents to just 200 yards a game and have allowed only 20 points in the past 17 quarters.
EKU has the OVC’s best run defense, allowing only 99.4 yards a game — which is fifth-best in FCS — and best rushing offense (209.1 yards game)
Jacksonville State comes into the game with the league’s second-best ground attack (206.1 ypg).
“They are going to try to run the ball,” Hood said. “They’ve got some big backs. They’ve got some guys who can really run it. They are good up front, so its going to be a physical game.”
JSU junior running back DeMarcus James is averaging 89.6 yards a game rushing and leads the OVC with 17 rushing touchdowns.
In a win on the road over Jacksonville University (Fla.) earlier this season, the Gamecocks rushed for 547 yards and had four backs finish with more than 100 yards, including James.
“That’s our stable. We want to stop the run,” Brown said. “Obviously we want them not to have any 100 yard rushers.”
The Colonels have not lost to Jacksonville State since 2009. In those three wins, they have averaged 51 points a game.
“(This senior class) has never lost to Jacksonville State, and that’s one of biggest rivals in the conference,” Brown said. “So, we definitely want to close this out with a 4-0 record against these guys.”