The Colonels’ high-powered offense struggled to get on track for most of the season with one quarterback in charge, but has suddenly found a spark with a pair of QBs running the show.

Josh Greco and Allan Holland both saw action last week, leading Eastern Kentucky University to a season-high 495 yards, including 323 passing yards, in a 51-21 win over Murray State. Holland completed six-of-11 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while Greco was 11-of-16 for 179 yard and a touchdown as the Colonels (4-5, 3-3) won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Both also split playing time in a win Oct. 21 at Southeast Missouri and are expected to both be on the field this weekend when EKU travels to No. 8 UT-Martin.

“I’m really happy with it,” EKU coach Danny Hope said of the Colonels’ quarterback rotation. “It’s a real fortunate situation. We are very pleased with Allan and when he got the chance to play a couple of weeks ago he stepped up and played well. He earned the right and opportunity to play. He makes a difference out there, both those quarterbacks do. They are both exceptional quarterbacks. We are scoring a lot of points right now and I think it’s helped us.”

The Colonels led the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring and total offense last season, but averaged just 11.4 points a game through the first five games this season, including two shutouts. Greco turned in solid performances against Samford and Eastern Illinois, but after a lingering injury forced him to the sidelines Holland led EKU to a come-from-behind win over SEMO.

In the last four games, the Colonels have scored 130 points and they are now second in the league in total offense (347 yards a game) and lead the conference in passing yards (215.3).

“They are both competitive guys and any time you are competitive you always want to be first and best,” Hope said. “They are team guys and they both helped us win on Saturday and both those guys will have an impact this Saturday. Winning is the most important thing to our team right now.”

Western moving on up

The Colonels’ oldest rival is moving up to Division I-A, but Hope is optimistic that won’t put an end to the long-standing series between the two schools.

Western Kentucky’s board of regents approved the move last Thursday by a vote of 7-2 with one member abstaining. The school will submit paperwork to the NCAA office before June 1 and will be considered a reclassifying school for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The first year the Hilltoppers will be eligible to participate for a Sun Belt Conference championship and a berth in a bowl game is 2009.

“It’s a great rivalry. It’s a game that everyone in the state wants to see played and I hope that won’t change and I don’t think it will,” Hope said. “I anticipate playing them next year and the year after and forever.”

The two schools have played each other 82 times, dating back to 1914. Western Kentucky was a member of the OVC before moving the Gateway Conference in 2001.

Denton gets his chance

After seeing actionin just four games as a backup quarterback last season — including just 15 pass attempts — Zach Denton was extremely pleased when the EKU coaching staff moved him into the secondary during spring practice.

The sophomore just wanted a chance to play and make an impact — which he certainly did Saturday against Murray State.

Denton blocked a punt in the end zone, which turned into a safety and had his first career interception in the lopsided win. The sophomore also had a career-high four tackles.

“I’ve been waiting for the opportunity for a few years now,” Denton said. “I finally got a shot, got on the field and made some plays.”

Barber gets in the end zone

Junior wide receiver Kyle Barber has been among the OVC leaders in receptions all season, but finally got into the end zone Saturday against Murray State.

Barber scored on a 43-yard pass from Greco in the third quarter, his longest reception of the season. He finished the game with five receptions for a team-high 76 yards.

“He’s executing the details of his assignment,” Hope said of Barber. “He’s getting in the right spot and when he’s open, he’s catching the ball, tucking it away and getting up field with it. I was glad he was able to get a touchdown.”

The junior has at least two catches in every game this season and is tied for second in the league with 4.56 receptions a game. He leads the team with 41 receptions.

Sacking the Racers

The Colonels had just seven sacks on the season coming into the annual showdown with Murray State, but almost doubled that total Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.

EKU sacked a pair of Racer quarterbacks five times, with Mark Cristiani leading the charge with 1.5 sacks. The senior defensive lineman also had three quarterback hurries.

Brandon Gathof and Chris Harris had their first sacks of the year as the Colonels pressured Zach Barnard and Ryne Salyer all game. Cardius Dowell had half a sack and forced a fumble, while George Anderson came up with his team-leading third sack of the season.

“We switched it up a little bit,” Denton said. “We came out and played a lot more base and the defensive line got a lot more pressure.”

EKU is still last in the OVC with just 12 sacks this season.

Stats, etc.

Davin Walker’s 100-yard return in the second quarter against Murray State was the first kickoff return for a touchdown for an EKU player since Nov. 14 2004. Walker is ranked eighth in the nation in return yardage (27.26 a kick), while freshman Garnett Phelps is 12th national in punt returns (13.6 yards a return).

The Colonels had five plays of more than 40 yards in the win over the Racers, four of which resulted in touchdowns. They had just three plays that went for more than 40 yards coming into the game.

Dunn’s 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the longest rush of the season and the longest of his career.

EKU won the turnover battle Saturday for just the third time this season. The Colonels are 3-0 when they have fewer turnovers than their opponents and 1-5 when they have more turnovers.

Taylor Long missed his first extra point of the season Saturday. The sophomore had an attempt blocked in the third quarter. He had hit his first 19 of the year and is now 21-of-22.

OVC Players of the Week

UT-Martin’s Donald Chapman is the OVC Offensive Player of the Week. The junior running back rushed for 225 yards on 36 carries as the Skyhawks defeated SEMO, 28-14. He scored on runs on 3, 1 and 81 yards in the second half and had one reception for 14 yards.

Donald Thomas is the OVC Defensive Player of the Week. Eastern Illinois’ junior linebacker led a defense that limited the league’s leading rusher — Tennessee State’s Javarris Williams — to 38 yards rushing in a 29-3 win. Thomas had 12 tackles, including two for a loss.

UT-Martin’s Jessie Burton is the OVC Specialist of the Week. The junior wide receiver had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the win over SEMO. The TD return tied the game at 7-7 in the opening minutes of the second half. He finished the game with 146 total return yards.

Cole Stinson is the OVC Newcomer of the Week. Eastern Illinois’ junior quarterback was 21-of-35 for 223 and had touchdown and also ran for another score.

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