By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The Colonels were humiliated by their defensive performance in a loss at home to Coastal Carolina last month.
They allowed a stunning 631 yards of total offense, more than half of which came on the ground, in a 51-32 non-conference setback.
And the sting of that disappointing loss has certainly stuck with the Colonels ever since.
“We are still pissed off about the Coastal Carolina game,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “That’s just something that hasn’t happened since (this coaching staff) been here. Quite frankly, we were embarrassed by it and the kids seem like they have been playing with a chip on their shoulder.”
For a team that is usually among the Ohio Valley Conference in rushing defense, it was a bafflingly bad all-around effort. The Colonels allowed 339 yards on the ground on 43 carries — an average of 7.9 yards a rush. They also gave up four rushing touchdowns, 13 first downs on the ground and three carries of more than 40 yards (54 yards, 45 yards and 44 yards).
“That wasn’t us,” EKU defensive lineman Bryce Krebs said Saturday after a win over Tennessee Tech at Roy Kidd Stadium. “We are back now.”
But, since that loss, the EKU defense has stepped up, especially against the run.
In the past four games, the Colonels have allowed just 182 yards on 101 carries (1.8 yards a carry), only 16 first down rushing and one rushing touchdown.
The Colonels limited Tennessee Tech to just 27 yards rushing on 22 attempts (1.2 yards a carry) in a 24-10 win last week. In the past two games, EKU has allowed just 33 yards rushing on 47 carries (0.7 yards a carry) and only four first downs rushing (TTU 3, APSU 1).
“We’ve had a lot of focus in practice these past few weeks and it’s really transferred over to the game,” EKU senior linebacker Ichiro Vance said. “You practice well, you play well. That’s what has happened.”
EKU allowed more yards rushing against Coastal Carolina (339) then it has in its other six games this season combined (315).
The Colonels allowed four rushing touchdowns against the Chanticlers. They have only allowed two other rushing TDs all year (Louisville and Eastern Illinois).
In the past four games, EKU has not allowed a run of more than 21 yards.
“They are doing up front what we thought (they would),” Hood said of his defense. “That’s the strength of our team. The front seven is where our veteran guys are. So, we’ve thought all year that we are going to be a pretty good run defense.”
The Colonels currently lead the Ohio Valley Conference in rush defense (93.4 yards a game) and rank fifth nationally among all FCS teams. Only North Dakota State (75.7), Mercer (80.1) , Harvard (80.8) and Sacred Heart (87.1) are allowing fewer yards a game on the ground.
If you take away the poor performance against Coastal, EKU’s rush defense statistics are eye-popping.
In their other six games this season, the Colonels are allowing just 52.5 yards a game and an average of only 2.045 yards a rush.
“Our bread and butter is to stop the run every time,” Krebs said. “We stop (the run) first, then make them one-dimensional in the pass game, then just get after them.”