By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
If they wanted to, the Colonels could have looked back and picked out several significant moments that made a major impact on the outcome of Saturday’s season finale.
And they could have thought, ‘What if?’
“You could point to a thousand plays,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “Crazy stuff happens in college football, but you’ve got to respond. You can’t whine and cry about it and I don’t think our kids did that.”
In the end, there was need to relive what might have or could have been.
The Colonels saw a disappointing season come to a frustrating conclusion with a 34-27 loss in overtime to Murray State. EKU was stopped on fourth-and-goal on the 2-yard line on the final play of the game.
With a third-strraight loss, the Colonels finished the season with a 6-6 record. It’s just the second time since 1977 that EKU has had a non-winning record.
The loss also snapped an eight-game winning streak against the Racers (6-6, 4-4 OVC).
“It’s tough to handle going 6-6 at Eastern Kentucky. It’s very disappointing,” Hood said. “I’m the guy in charge, so I’m the guy responsible for going 6-6. That doesn’t negate how I feel about this senior class. They did everything we asked. It’s the best senior class I’ve ever had.”
The Colonels got a 1-yard touchdown run from Thomas Owens (his second of the game) with 46 seconds left in regulation to tie the game (27-27) and force overtime.
EKU appeared to carry that momentum into the extra period.
After a 1-yard loss and a pair of incomplete passes, the Racers were facing fourth-and-11 on the 26 yard-line.
Then they ran a reverse option pass play and quarterback Maikhail Miller hit Jesse Blackburn on a touchdown pass.
“I take full responsibility for that,” EKU junior defensive back Brandon Stanley said. “I should have been playing deep but I came up and I didn’t see that pass until the last minute. That’s was a play we really hadn’t seen (on film) coming into the game. So, hats off to Murray State for tricking us on that play.”
On their possession in overtime, the Colonels were able to move the ball. Junior quarterback Jared McClain scrambled for a first down on fourth-and-two. Jared Sanders followed with an 11-yard run that got the ball to the 4-yard line.
But, Sanders lost a yard on first down and then two incomplete passes left EKU facing fourth-and-goal from the two.
McClain took the ball on the final play, but came up one yard short.
“You’ve got to make good calls and make the right play,” Hood said. “It’s tough.”
There certainly were some odd plays in the 73rd all-time meeting between the OVC rivals.
The Colonels got a pair of field goals in the first quarter that cut Murray’s lead to 7-6, but in between those Andrew Lloyd kicks they had another drive die on the goalline. McClain was stuffed on the Murray 1-yard line on both third and fourth down — and he appeared to get into the end zone both times.
In the fourth quarter, Chris Owens blocked a punt deep in Murray State territory, but punter Stephen Nix picked up the ball and rushed 11 yards for a first down.
The Racers got a field goal on that drive to take a 24-20 lead.
The Colonels also had two would-be touchdown passes dropped in the second half, one by Ike Ariguzo and Ja’Tyuan Landing.
“Today was just one of those days where a lot of times things just weren’t going our way,” Stanley said.
The Racers marched right down the field on the first possession of the game. They put together an 8-play, 75-yard drive that Miller capped with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Just 2:27 into the game, Murray was up 7-0.
The Colonels took the lead mid-way though the second quarter. Owens busted around the left side and scored on a 20-yard run to give EKU a 13-7 lead.
Murray State answered back on the next drive. Miller scored on a 1-yard run with 4:47 left in the third quarter to give the Racers a 14-13 lead.
EKU went back in front on its final drive of the half. Ariguzo caught a 3-yard TD pass from McClain to give the Colonels a 20-14 lead heading into the halftime.
Murray State scored on it first possession of the second half, going 76 yards on six plays. Miller hit Blackburn on a 2-yard pass just 3:11 into the third quarter.
Marc Wynstra hit a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter to put Murray State up 27-20.
Owens had a career-best 117 yards rushing on 20 carries. Sanders had 80 yards rushing on 23 carries.
McClain was 15-of-27 for 119 yards and a touchdown.
The Colonels had not lost at Murray State since 1999 and they have beaten the Racers in 11 of 12 past 12 meetings.