The Colonels haven’t officially been eliminated from contention for at least a share of the Ohio Valley Conference title.
There is a scenario where four teams could end up tied at the top of the standings.
A long list of very improbable things, however, would have to happen in the next weeks to get to that situation.
And the EKU coaching staff knows that.
“I don’t see that happening,” EKU coach Mark Elder said of the potential of the Colonels sharing an OVC title. “We are not even talking like that. That’s not a realistic conversation that anyone (in this program) is having.”
Back-to-back losses to Top-25 conference opponents have forced the Colonels (5-5, 3-3 OVC) to shift their focus to other goals.
“We’ve got a lot to play for. We’ve got a winning season to play for. We’ve got our seniors to play for,” Elder said. “We’ve got to go win this game.”
EKU would have to claim victory in both of its final regular-season games to have a winning record for the second-straight season.
The first step toward that goal is a Senior Day match-up with Tennessee Tech (6-4, 3-3) today at Roy Kidd Stadium.
Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.
“It’s a big game regardless of your record,” EKU tight end Ethan Bradds said. “We are just looking to go 2-0. We can’t do anything about the past.”
The past two weeks have been gut-wrenching for the Colonels.
They fell at home to Austin Peay in overtime, 28-21, on Nov. 2, then built a big lead last week on the road over Southeast Missouri State.
The Colonels were up 31-14 early in the third quarter, only to see the Redhawks (7-3, 5-1 OVC) scored the final 24 points of the game.
The 38-31 win lifted SEMO into a first-place tie with Austin Peay (7-3, 5-1). UT-Martin (6-4, 5-2) is in third place, while EKU and Tennessee Tech are tied for fourth.
“In 20 years of coaching, I haven’t had two heartbreakers in a row like that,” Elder said. “They are hard to swallow.”
Last week’s result was especially difficult to handle considering how the Colonels dominated much of the game. EKU forced five turnovers and had a 17-point lead.
“I think they made some adjustments and they did a good job,” Bradds said. “We weren’t executing our gameplan.”
SEMO had committed just 10 turnovers all season, but had three fumbles and two interceptions.
“If you are +3 (in turnover margin), you should be able to pull it out,” Elder said. “We did a lot of really good things, then we didn’t in the second half. We couldn’t sustain drives, then allowed them to score a bunch of points.”
Senior Daryl McCleskey had 75 yards rushing against SEMO, pushing him over 1,000 yards for the season. He continues to lead the OVC in rushing at 102.2 yards a game.
Sophomore running back Alonzo Booth scored his league-leading 12th rushing touchdown of the season last week.
While the Colonels have slipped down the OVC standings in recent weeks, Tennessee Tech has moved up.
The Golden Eagles have won two-straight games, including a 37-27 win at home over Jacksonville State.
Quarterback Bailey Fisher has been a big part of TTU’s recent success. The sophomore has accounted for 30 touchdowns this season (20 passing and 10 rushing).
Fisher was 20-of-27 passing last week for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 121 yards and two more scores.
“They threw him last year (as a freshman),” Elder said of Bailey. “They put him out there and let him work through all those things and you are seeing a more veteran guy now. He’s got 20-something games under his belt.”
The Golden Eagles also have five receivers with more than 20 catches this season — including Metrius Fleming (41 catches, 571 yards, three TDs) and Darrius Stafford (32 catches, 480 yards and three TDs). The roster also features 13 players who have caught a touchdown pass this season.
TTU’s defense has put together a remarkable turnaround in recent weeks as well.
After giving up a total of 156 total points in three-straight OVC loss, the Golden Eagles have allowed just 34 points the past two weeks.
“The last two weeks, they’ve played really, really well on defense,” Elder said. “We are going to have our work cut out for us.”
EKU has won three-straight against TTU and lead the all-time series 55-20.
The match-up with the Golden Eagles will mark the final home game for 19 EKU seniors — Frank Sumpter, Leodis Moore, Corey Glass, T.J. Comstock, Ben Bascom, Jerome Gross, McCleskey, Sam Hayworth, Ellis Cain, Aaron Patrick, Elijah Taylor, Taquan Evans, Ja’Hshaun Seider, Brentton Ervin, Grant Polk, Adam Valiga, Christian Vinson and Lamarr Davis.