The Eastern Kentucky University coaching staff knows it can't measure the progress of its team in traditional ways this season.

That's just not possible considering the unprecedented circumstances.

"(Normally) you wanna see it on the field in wins and losses," EKU coach Walt Wells said. "You want to see it in points scored and stopping people."

In 2020, progress will have to be continually quantified in a much different way.

However, after an extremely disappointing loss in the opener, Wells and the staff felt much better about EKU's all-around performance two weeks ago against West Virginia.

The Colonels (0-2) were handed another lopsided defeat -- 56-10 -- but made huge strides forward in every facet of the game and almost every spot on the field.

"There were times where we felt like we were competing with them," Wells said of playing West Virginia. "We just couldn't consistently come up eight, nine or 10-play drives."

After a week off, the Colonels will look to take another big step forward.

EKU is set to take on The Citadel on Saturday in Charleston, S.C.

Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. and the game will be available live on ESPN3.

"We got three really good practices in," Wells said. "We spent most of the time focusing on The Citadel, but we did some good-on-good periods so that we got the speed we needed to. We worked against each other some."

EKU's nine-game, all non-conference schedule began with back-to-back match-ups with teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision.

A trip to The Citadel will provide the Colonels their first chance this season to play a program at their own level -- the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Bulldogs are playing only four non-league games this fall, with the hope of playing a full Southern Conference schedule in the spring.

The Citadel opened the season with a 27-6 loss to South Florida on Sept. 12, before falling 49-0 to No. 1 Clemson last week.

The Colonels are also 0-2 on the season.

There are reasons for optimism, though.

Devion Ross returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against West Virginia (which was called back, perhaps incorrectly, on a penalty), EKU had just one turnover and Parker McKinney threw a touchdown pass to Keyion Dixon.

Those were all positive signs for a young team that was humiliated 59-0 in the season opener. Against West Virginia, the Colonels played for than two dozen freshmen/redshirt freshmen.

"That's just where we are at with our program right now," Wells said. "That's not an excuse."

The schedule provided the Colonels with a week off to rest up and heal up and also prepare for a unique challenge.

The Citadel runs a version of the triple-option attack which is used by very few teams in the country.

"They will throw the ball more than most triple-option teams," Wells said. "It's not like Army or Navy where they never throw the ball."

To prepare for that unusual offense, EKU prepared in an unconventional way.

Quarterback coach Trent Steelman ran a similar system at Army. He finished his college career ranked 15th in NCAA history for rushing yards by a quarterback.

This week, the former Army officer was back on the field, running the option -- in practice.

"He's been playing scout team quarterback, which has been fun to watch," Wells said.

The Bulldogs were 6-6 in 2019 with a 4-4 record against Southern Conference opponents.

They return 37 letterman from a year ago, including their starting quarterback and the Southern Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Brandon Rainey completed 62-of-144 passes last year for 1,114 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. The senior was also the team's leading rusher, finishing with 900 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns.

"He's a kid who knows the system," Wells said of Rainey. "He knows what to do. He puts them in the play they need to be in their check system and we've been working hard against them all week."

Willie Eubanks III had 112 tackles last season with 11.5 tackles-for-loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior linebacker was named a 2020 first-team preseason All-American by Athlon Sports.

"We've got to know where he is," Wells said of Eubanks. "He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played and he is a physical tackler."

The game will mark the first-ever meeting between EKU and the Citadel.

The Colonels are set to play host to Houston Baptist next weekend in their home opener.

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