The Colonels find themselves in a familiar position as they get set to open Ohio Valley Conference play.
For the ninth-straight year, EKU will begin league competition with a losing record.
That streak is, of course, very deceiving.
In the post Roy Kidd era (2003-2011), the Colonels are 5-20 prior to the start of conference play. But, nine of those losses have came on the road against Football Bowl Subdivision teams and five of those setbacks were losses to long-time rival Western Kentucky.
Still, after a loss last week to Chattanooga at home, the Colonels will carry a 1-2 record into a showdown Saturday at Austin Peay (0-2).
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
“Those games are in the past,” EKU junior wide receiver Tyrone Goard said. “We’ve just got to take the next step. We have to get mentally focused and prepared and just be ready to play.”
Unlike in recent years, the Colonels have reason to be confident heading into conference play.
EKU almost knocked off Kansas State in the season opener (a 10-7 loss) and following a win at home over Missouri State (28-24) had a chance to beat Chattanooga last Saturday.
The Colonels had the lead at the half, but the Mocs scored two second-half touchdowns in a 23-14 win.
“I’d like to be 3-0,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “Really, we are just a couple of plays from being 3-0. We are 1-2 and it is what it is. It’s our job to come out this week and be prepared.”
The Colonels know they were close.
The results don’t reflect that on paper, obviously, Still, they are confident and believe that they have momentum heading into OVC play.
“We played some good teams from some good conferences and we played as hard as we possibly could,” EKU tight end Matt Lengel said.
Those losses sting.
In the end though, they really may mean nothing.
The OVC champion gets an automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
And that’s the ultimate goal.
The Colonels haven’t won a league title in three years. The first step toward a record 21st OVC championship starts with a showdown against the Governors.
The Colonels last visit to Clarksville, Tenn., wasn’t memorable at all.
EKU had four turnovers and Austin Peay took advantage of those mistakes. The Govs rushed for 263 yards and picked up a 24-20 win on Oct. 24, 2009.
That loss snapped a 22-game winning streak against Peay and started a late-season slide that saw the Colonels finish with a losing record for the first time since 1972.
“We didn’t take care of the football and we turned it over quite a bit,” Hood said of the loss to Peay. “We shot ourselves in the foot on some big plays that we should have made.”
Two years later, that loss hasn’t been forgotten.
“We want to go down there and beat them and get some payback,” Goard said.
The key to earning a measure of revenge could be the Colonels finding a way to jump-start a sluggish offense.
Through the first three weeks of the season, EKU ranks near the bottom of the national statistics in a long list of important offensive categories, including — time possession (117th — 24:59), third-down conversions (92nd — 29 percent), scoring offense (98th — 16.33 points a game), total offense (107th — 251 yards a game) and passing offense (102nd — 143 yards a game).
The Colonels rank 20th nationally in scoring defense (19 points a game), but the offense hasn’t given much support.
Last week against Chattanooga, EKU’s defense was on the field for 84 snaps.
“It’s never as good as you think it is when you watch the film and it’s never as bad as you think it is,” Hood said. “Defensively, we really made some bonehead mistakes and we actually could have played better.”
The Govs are near the bottom of the OVC rankings as well in many categories.
Those numbers are skewed because both of Peay’s losses have come against FBS competition. The Govs opened the season with a 72-10 loss to Cincinnati and last week fell at Memphis, 27-6.
“You don’t know how good Cincinnati is. You don’t know how good Memphis is,” Lengel said. “It’s hard to look at film and tell how good a player is when they are playing guys who are supposed to be at a higher level.”
Despite the two lopsided losses, the Govs were able to move the ball. Ryan White (152 yards) and Wesley Kitts (112 yards, one touchdown) both have more than 100 yards rushing this season.
Devin Stark has 13 catches for 168 yards and quarterback Ryan Jake has completed 39-of-67 attempts for 394 yards and a touchdown.
Peay does have eight turnovers so far this season and -7 turnover ratio.
“They’ve got some weapons, no question,” Hood said.