EKU players were repeatedly asked the same question when they met with members of the state-wide media earlier this week.
“Are we surprised that we are 3-0?,” EKU senior quarterback Jared McClain said, repeating the question.
That question got a very similar answer every time.
“No,” McClain responded.
“No surprises here,” EKU sophomore quarterback Bennie Coney said.
The Colonels are 3-0 for the first time since 1992, but they don’t seem the least bit surprised by their outstanding start to the season.
“Honestly, this is kind of something that we predicted,” EKU senior safety Brandon Stanley said. “I think a lot of us had a vision of starting the season like this. The schedule works out in our favor. I don’t think anyone is really shocked and we are just going to try to keep it going.”
Three-straight victories — including the program’s first win over an FBS school (Miami University) in almost 29 years — have given the Colonels confidence and a bit of swagger.
They simply dominated long-time rival Morehead State 55-13 last week in their home opener and will look to carry that momentum into Ohio Valley Conference play.
EKU is set to travel to UT-Martin (1-2, 0-0 OVC) on Saturday. Game time is 1 p.m. in Martin, Tenn.
“Our season starts this week,” McClain said. “So, that is our focus.”
For a team that finished last season with a 6-6 record (4-4 in the OVC) and was picked fourth in the league’s preseason poll, the Colonels’ success has indeed turned some heads.
After not being ranked in either of the major Football Championship Subdivision polls prior to the start of the season, EKU has now jumped into the Top 25 in both rankings.
This week, the Colonels are 22nd in the FCS Coaches Poll and 23rd in The Sports Network Poll.
That jump in the rankings comes after a very impressive win last week over Morehead State at Roy Kidd Stadium. The Colonels raced out to a 46-0 first-half lead, scoring touchdowns on six of their first eight possessions.
“There was a lets take care of business (attitude),” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “Our kids came out with a resolve that, ‘Hey, we are better than these guys. So, lets take the romance out of it and take care of business early.’”
The EKU defense has been one of the biggest reasons for the team’s undefeated start to the season.
The Colonels lead the OVC in rushing defense, scoring defense (11 points per game — 7th in FCS) and turnover margin (+1). They are second in the league in total defense (333.7 yards a game), pass efficiency defense (100.2 — 21st in FCS) and sacks (2.7 a game — 22nd in FCS).
EKU has held all three of its opponents this season to less than 100 yards rushing. The Colonels are allowing just 49.3 yards a game on the ground, which is fourth nationally among all FCS schools.
“We have a bunch of guys flying around and making plays,” Stanley said.
The offense has been very effective as well.
The Colonels lead the OVC in rushing offense (280.7 a game — 4th in FCS) and are second in the league in total offense (476.3 yards — 7th in FCS).
Junior running back Dy’Shawn Mobley is averaging 97.3 yards rushing a game, which leads the OVC.
“We are just going to go out there and do what we can do,” Mobley said. “Just taking it one game at a time.”
Sophomore Bennie Coney, a transfer from the University of Cincinnati, has started all three games at quarterback. But, in each game, senior Jared McClain has also seen significant time under center.
The two quarterbacks have gotten pretty much equal playing time and have put up pretty similar statistics.
Coney is 21-of-39 for 264 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
McClain has completed 17-of-31 passes for 234 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The senior has also run for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
The two-quarterback system is likely to continue as long as the EKU offense keeps producing points.
“If it’s working, don’t mess with it,” Coney said.
UT-Martin dropped its first two games of the season, falling on the road against Kentucky (59-14) and Central Arkansas (26-24).
The Skyhawks bounced back last week with an easy win over NAIA Cumberland (63-7).
The Colonels have dominated the all-time series with UT-Martin, winning 22 of the 24 meetings. But, the Skyhawks beat EKU last year in Richmond.
UT-Martin limited the Colonels to a season-low 80 yard rushing and forced three turnovers in a 16-7 win at Roy Kidd Stadium.
“They made plays and we didn’t,” McClain said. “They executed and we didn’t execute. We’ve got a gameplan and we are going to stick to — run the ball and make plays in the passing game. That’s what we are going to do.”
Senior Abou Toure had 111 yards rushing in last year’s win over EKU. He leads the Skyhawks with 234 yards rushing and two touchdowns this season.
Quarterback Jarod Neal has thrown for six touchdowns this season. Receivers Kyle Kerrick and Corey Walden both have two touchdown receptions.
The Skyhawks lead the OVC in total offense – 476.7 yards a game.
“They are really physical and they’ve got a lot of athletes at different positions who can hurt you,” Stanley said. “They move the ball around well. They do a lot of things well on offense.”