By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The Colonels have one of the better defenses in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The numbers prove that.
EKU leads the league and is ranked nationally in both rushing defense (89.6, 10th FCS) and turnover margin (+8, sixth FCS). The Colonels are also third in the league in total defense (366.8 yards a game), pass efficiency defense (129.5 ypg) and scoring defense (23.8).
EKU has allowed just 37 total points in two OVC games (both wins) and last week limited UT-Martin to just 46 yards rushing on 29 attempts.
At times, the Colonel defense has been dominant.
“We all go out there and play for each other,” EKU senior defensive lineman Robert Knowles said. “We really don’t have any standout (individual) stats. We just go out and execute. Everyone is doing their job and getting the job done.”
It has indeed been a total team effort on defense.
The Colonels have just one player in the top 20 in the league in tackles — Brandon Stanley, 36 tackles — and only five players among the top 45 tacklers.
Even though EKU has pretty much used the same starting lineup most of the season — eight players have started every game at their position — a lot of players are making an impact for a talented and deep defense.
So far this season, 11 Colonels have a tackle for loss. Nine players have a pass breakup. Eight players have a sack. Six players have a fumble recovery. Four players have blocked a kick and four players have also come up with interceptions.
Its been a balanced and relentless attack.
“I think there are guys stepping up at different points of the game on specials teams and on defense,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “They understand the schemes and they are a group of guys who put team before themselves.”
The Colonels do have a couple of players ranked near the top of some other individual defensive OVC statistics.
Senior defensive back Brooklyn Fox leads the league in interceptions (three) and passes defended (seven). Senior linebacker Anthony Brown is third in the league in tackles-for-loss (5.5) and Nick Vinci, a senior backup defensive lineman, is tied for fourth in the league in sacks (2.0).
Still, its a defense that doesn’t have many stars, just a lot of solid performers.
“I think they are a superstar together,” Hood said.
Knowles guts it out
Robert Knowles hyper-extended his knee during the first half of the Colonels’ win Saturday at UT-Martin. But that didn’t keep the senior defensive lineman off the field.
Knowles left the field briefly but returned to the lineup and finished with three tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss, one pass-breakup, one block and two quarterback hurries.
“I just locked up, but I’m a senior and I just wanted to go out there and play ball,” Knowles said. “I just wanted to lead. To keep fighting. Just give it my all.”
By the end of the game, the senior had to be helped off the field.
“As long as we get a chance to go out there and play, then I’m fine with that,” Knowles said.