The Richmond Register

September 11, 2013

OVC FOOTBALL: Colonels tough against the run, again

By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor

RICHMOND — In the past few years, the Colonels have had one of the top rush defenses in the Ohio Valley Conference.

And through the first two games this season, they have once again been very, very tough to run on.

EKU (1-1) is allowing just 66.5 yards a game on the ground, which ranks eighth in the nation among FCS schools.

The Colonels allowed just 55 yards rushing in the season opener against Robert Morris and gave up just 78 yards last week in a loss to Louisville.

Heading into this weekend’s showdown with Coastal Carolina at Roy Kidd Stadium, EKU is giving only 2.5 yards a carry (133 yards on 53 carries).

“You’ve got to give the credit to the guys up front,” EKU cornerback Stanley Absanon said. “They are hunting up there. They are fired up and ready to go. We all feed off each other. We just work on being in the right place at the right time in the run defense.”

So far this year, only one other OVC team allowing less than 100 yards a game is Tennessee State (92 ypg). Jacksonville State is third at 162 yards a game.

In the loss to Louisville, the Colonels allowed 2.8 yards a carry and did not allow the eighth-ranked Cardinals a rush of more than eight yards.

What makes that statistic even more impressive is that EKU did not have a sack in the game. Lost yardage on sacks count as negative rushing yards.

“That’s encouraging,” EKU coach Dean Hood said of the run defense against Louisville. “It’s not like they didn’t try to run it. It’s not like they can’t run it or don’t have guys who can block. That’s really encouraging that we held them that low (in rushing yards).”

Louisville had 199 yards on the ground the week before against Ohio.

In the win over Robert Morris, the Colonels allowed only 2.2 yards a rush. The Colonials longest rush in that game was just 14 yards.

“It’s something we take a great deal of pride in,” Absanon said.

No turnovers in the Ville

The Colonels had forced at least one turnover in 12 straight games, but couldn’t find a way to come up with a takeaway Saturday in a 44-7 loss at Louisville.

EKU finished with a -2 turnover margin after losing a fumble and a throwing an interception.

“That would have been a lot closer game if we could have turned them over,” Hood said. “We couldn’t get them to put the ball on the ground or get a pick.”

Last season, the Colonels were near the top of the national leaders among FCS schools in turnover margin at +19. They had more turnovers than their opponent just one time — Oct. 6 at Tennessee State (a 23-20 loss).

The last time EKU did not force at least one turnover in a game was Nov. 26, 2011 in a playoff loss at Roy Kidd Stadium to James Madison.

Spreading it around

The Colonels’ offense has gotten production from a plenty of different players through the first two weeks of the season.

So far, 12 different receivers have caught a pass for EKU — including quarterback Jared McClain.

Jeff Glover has a team-best six catches for 77 yards, while tight end Nathan Watts has four catches, including a touchdown, and Devin Borders and Nathan Rawe each have three catches.

Borders caught his first collegiate touchdown pass against Louisville, a 15-yarder in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got a ton of young guys in the receiving core and they’ve been doing a good job for us,” EKU running back Caleb Watkins said. “Not only catching the ball well, but blocking on the perimeter.”

Last year, only 11 players caught a pass.

Also, five players have at least 10 carries so far this season — McClain, J.J. Jude, Watkins, Thomas Owens and Jared Sanders.

Sanders leads the team with 72 yards on 18 rushes, while McClain has 71 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.