There are many very painful, yet very simple reasons for the second-half collapses that have led to disappointing road losses for the Colonels each of the last two weeks.

Turnovers, penalties, poor field position, missed field goals and a stunningly stagnant offense have been the main culprits as Eastern Kentucky University (1-3) allowed halftime leads to slip away at Western Carolina and Tennessee Tech.

“We haven’t connected and it’s not any one thing,” EKU coach Danny Hope said. “This past weekend we were driving and then we fumbled. We had two great plays called back. It’s a little bit of everything. Some things have snuck up and bit us.”

The Colonels played extremely well in the first half of both games, taking a 17-7 lead at WCU and 14-7 advantage at TTU, but couldn’t seem to do much right in the final two quarters. EKU has been outscored 33-0 after halftime the last two weeks and has turned the ball on four of its 12 second-half possessions.

The offense’s inability to generate points has been the most shocking part of the Colonels’ two-game losing streak. After leading the Ohio Valley Conference in almost every offensive category last year (412 yards a game, 31.5 points a game), EKU is near the bottom of all those same statistics so far this season.

The Colonels have more first downs than any team in the league, but are last in scoring (14.2 ppg), and sixth in total offense (318.8 yards a game).

EKU is also last in the OVC in turnover ratio at -6 (eight interceptions and three fumbles lost).

“It just comes down to a couple of errors,” EKU center Shawn Dedden said. “That’s about it. We’ve got to get that fixed and go out there this week and play our butts off.”

The Colonels have had a touchdown pass called back on a penalty each of the last two weeks, including a TD throw by running back Mark Dunn at Western Carolina, and have connected on just one of four field-goal attempts. EKU has had to start seven second-half possession in the last two weeks inside its own 20-yard line and has held the ball for an average of just 11:30 minutes in the final two quarters.

The Colonels had 268 yards of total offense in the first half at TTU, but just like two weeks ago at Western Carolina, couldn’t generate any offense after halftime. EKU had just 93 yards and six first downs in the second half.

“I thought we executed much better in the first half against Tennessee Tech then we did against Western Carolina,” Hope said. “I think we should have gone into the locker room with 31 points.”

No quarterback controversy

Sophomore Allan Holland replaced Josh Greco in the second half last week at Tennessee Tech, but that late-game substitution certainly didn’t signal an emerging quarterback controversy.

“We’ve been trying to get Allan in the game all year,” Hope said. “We had pre-planned to play him in the last three games. Allan has a great arm, we were behind so it was a chance to get him in there and see what he could do.”

Holland, a transfer from Wake Forest, saw limited action in the season-opening loss to Cincinnati and was warming up on the sidelines in the second half against Western Carolina, but did not get into the game.

The sophomore ran the offense for two series against Tech, neither of which resulted in a first down, and was 0-of-2 passing, had 14 yards on four rushes and also fumbled once.

Holland is 1-of-5 this season for 18 yards.

Not-so-special teams

The Colonels continue to get rather shaky results from several key special teams performers — especially kicker Taylor Long and punter Benton Kuszmaul.

Long missed a 38-yard field goal last Thursday and is now just three-of-eight on field goal attempts this season. The sophomore also missed two-of-three attempts in the loss to Western Carolina, including a potential game-tying kick in the closing minutes.

Long made seven-of-10 field goals as a freshman, but still has not hit from beyond 36 yards during his two years at EKU.

Kuszmaul averaged just 36 yards a punt last week and hasn’t had a kick longer than 42 yards all season. The junior is averaging just 35.9 yards a punt, sixth-best in the league, and has had one punt blocked — which was returned for a touchdown by Western Carolina.

“I wish we were kicking as well in the game as we are in practice,” Hope said. “There some talent there, we just haven’t played as well in the game as we can. But, there’s a lot of games left.”

EKU is last in the OVC in punt return average (2.0 yards a kick), but is third in kickoff returns (24.1). Davin Walker is averaging 29.9 yards a return on kickoffs (second best in the OVC), but has fumbled twice on runbacks, including a costly turnover in the second half Thursday.

Odds and ends

Greco’s 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter Thursday marked the first time this season the Colonels have scored on their opening possession of a game.

EKU has been outscored 64-16 in the second half this season, while holding a 41-35 scoring advantage through the two first quarters.

Even though he’s not putting up the same eye-popping statistics he did a year ago, Greco is still second in the OVC in passing yards a game (179.2) and total offense (188.8) and seventh in pass efficiency (108.7).

Senior tight end Patrick Bugg had a season-low two receptions last week, but is still fourth in the league in receiving yards a game (65.2). Junior Kyle Barber had nine receptions last week and is fifth in the league in receptions a game (4.25). Quinton Williams is averaging 3.75 catches a game — seventh best in the OVC.

Linebacker Brandon Rosser continues to be among the league leaders in tackles. The senior has 18 solo and 18 assists and is fifth in the OVC in total tackles.

Derrick Huff’s first-half interception of TTU quarterback Lee Sweeney was the Colonels’ first INT of the season.

Dunn finished with 104 yards rushing last week, marking the fifth 100-yard rushing game of his career.

EKU has not started OVC play 0-2 since 1960.

The Colonels loss to Tennessee Tech in the OVC opener knocked them out of the Top 25 for the first time this season.

OVC Players of the Week

Eastern Illinois’ Vincent Webb is the OVC Offensive Player of the Week. The senior tailback had a career-high 208 yards in the Panthers’ 24-13 win over Samford. Webb moved into fifth place on the school all-time rushing list with his 16th career 100-yard game.

Aaron Williams is the OVC Defensive Player of the Week. The freshman linebacker had 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and also recovered a fumble in Tennessee Tech’s win over EKU.

Tennessee Tech’s Jon Mahan is OVC Specialist of the Week. The senior punter averaged 50 yards a kick, placed two punts inside the 20-yard line and had a season-high 84-yard punt in the Golden Eagles’ win over the Colonels.

UT-Martin’s E.J. Daniel is the OVC Newcomer of the Week. The sophomore wide receiver scored two touchdowns in the Skyhawks’ 24-14 upset of No. 25 Jacksonville State. Daniel caught three passes for 63 yards and had 115 all-purpose yards.

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