The Richmond Register

October 18, 2012

OVC FOOTBALL: Offense, defense helping EKU control the clock

By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor

LEXINGTON — Generally, time of possession is  considered an offensive statistic in college football.

But, the defense plays a big part as well.

“It goes both ways,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “If they go three-and-out, then their time of possession is down and if you are stringing together long drives, then you are gaining time.”

This year’s Colonels are a perfect example of that balance.

EKU leads the Ohio Valley Conference in time of possession and is ranked 11th nationally among FCS schools (33:15). The Colonels have possessed the ball for at least 32 minutes in six straight games, five of which were victories.

A big part of that of success, of course, has been EKU’s potent rushing attack.

The Colonels lead the OVC not only in total rushing yards (1,398) but rushing attempts. EKU has run the ball 339 times through seven games this season.

 No other OVC team has run the ball more than 300 times.

The Colonels also have gained 84 first downs rushing (21.4 a game) this season, which is also by far the most in the OVC. SEMO is second at 71 (18.8 a game).

“That clock keeps moving when you are running the ball,” Hood said.

The defense has done its part as well.

In four games against OVC competition, the Colonels (5-2, 3-1 OVC) have forced three-and-outs 13 times, which accounts for 26 percent of their opponents possessions.

The EKU defense has also only allowed six drives of more than 10 plays against OVC foes, while also forcing eight turnovers.

“You’ve got to get off the field and let the offense do its thing,” EKU junior Ichiro Vance said. “Whenever that happens, we know we are going to have a good game.”

The Colonels have won the time of possession battle in six of seven games this season and have won five of those six games.

Vance gets a pick

Ichiro Vance has racked up 135 tackles and 12 tackles-for-loss since jumping into the lineup two seasons ago.

Still, he didn’t have an interception — until last Saturday.

The junior linebacker from LaGrange picked off a pass from Austin Peay’s Jake Ryan late in the third quarter of a 45-14 win at Roy Kidd Stadium.

Vance returned the interception 13 yards to the Austin Peay 38-yard line.

“I almost felt like I was going to blackout,” Vance said. “I felt like it was never going to happen. It was pretty awesome. It was a play-action pass and I didn’t bite on it. I dropped back to my zone and it came right to me.”

Pryor stays humble

Senior quarterback T.J. Pryor set two more career school passing records Saturday in the win over Austin Peay.

The Louisville native is now EKU’s all-time leader in completions (481), touchdown passes (47) and passing yards (6,547).

After the game, Pryor was once again eager to share credit for his accomplishments with his teammates.

“It feels great,” Pryor said. “Those records are awesome. I just wish I could have all my teammates’ names on (the record too).”

That kind of humble reaction from Pryor comes as no surprise to his teammates and the coaching staff.

“I think he’s got a great perspective,” Hood said. “And probably because of his mentality, he is breaking a lot of records. He’s not a guy who is a ‘look at me guy.’ He’s very humble. He understands that the linemen had to block for him and the receivers had to catch the ball.”

Kickin it up

After missing five of his first seven field-goal attempts this season, Luke Pray is starting to find a rhythm.

The junior has hit three-straight kicks, including two field goals in the loss to Tennessee State two weeks ago. Pray also connected from 29 yards out last week against Austin Peay.

“It’s good that he’s hit a couple in a row,” Hood said of Pray. “I think our protection is better. We’ve been good on our snap and hold.”

So far this season, Pray has hit five-of-10 field goal attempts and is 22-of-24 on extra-point attempts.

Many happy returns

Prior to Saturday’s win over Austin Peay, the Colonels hadn’t had a kick return of more than 38 yards all season.

Stanley Absanon changed that.

The freshman defensive back from Auburndale, Fla., returned a kickoff 82 yards to the Governors’ 9-yard line in the second quarter. That big play set up a Matt Denham touchdown that put EKU up 28-7.

“It was pretty much a one-man show,” Hood said of the big return. “I’d like to say that we schemed them up and everyone did a great job blocking. But, we did an average job blocking and Stanley is just a special athlete who has that type of ability on every play.”