FCS Football News
The Sports Network
By John Hooper, FCS Correspondent
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 29th, 1 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: UR Stadium (21,319) -- Richmond, Virginia. Surface: Natural Grass. Television: None. Home Record: Eastern Kentucky 5-1; Richmond 4-1. Away Record: Eastern Kentucky 3-2; Richmond 5-2. Series Record: Richmond (1-0). Last Meeting: November 24, 2007 (Richmond, 31-14 at Richmond). Conference: Eastern Kentucky - Ohio Valley; Richmond - Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: Eastern Kentucky Colonels; Richmond Spiders. Sports Network Ranking: Eastern Kentucky (21); Richmond (7). Head Coaches: Eastern Kentucky - Dean Hood (8-3); Richmond - Mike London (9-3). Playoff Records: Eastern Kentucky (17-17); Richmond (5-6).
GAME NOTES: Richmond will host Eastern Kentucky for the second-consecutive season in the first round of the FCS playoffs, The two teams enter the first round contest as two of the hottest teams in the subdivision.
Richmond, a semifinalist last year, enters this year's tournament with a seven-game winning streak, while Eastern Kentucky, making an FCS-tying 19th postseason appearance, has won six in a row.
The Spiders, who are making their seventh all-time appearance in the FCS postseason, are looking to build on last year's program pinnacle of reaching the final four. To do that, they'll have to go through a more seasoned EKU team than the one they defeated 31-14 last year.
In the opening round win over the Colonels last season, the Spiders were powered by the rushing efforts of Tim Hightower, who now plays in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals. This season, running back Josh Vaughan (1,413, 14 TDs) has picked up where Hightower left off. Vaughan was the CAA's leading rusher in 2008 and ranked 10th nationally in FCS, averaging 117.8 yards per game. He is the dominant force in a Richmond running game that totals 189 of its 363 yards per game of total offense.
Meanwhile, Eric Ward (2,066 yards, 11 TDs, six interceptions) has been solid leading the Spiders' offense in his third season as the starting quarterback. He still has sophomore Kevin Grayson (46 catches, 622 yards, 13.5 average, one TD), who garnered All-CAA accolades for the second-straight season, as his favorite receiver. The Spiders' main deep threat is Jordan Mitchell (21 catches, 20.0 yards per catch, three TDs), while Tre Gray (39 receptions, 13.2 average, two TDs) is the team's second-leading receiver.
A Richmond defense that returned eight starters at the outset of the 2008 season has held true to form as the backbone for the Spiders. The Spiders rank fifth in FCS (249 yards per game).
That defense is anchored by a stout defensive line, including one of the nation's elite tandem of defensive ends, Lawrence Sidbury (14.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles) and Sherman Logan (44 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, six sacks). The Spiders have excelled in stopping the run, holding five straight opponents and nine this season, to less than 100 yards rushing in a game.
Tradition-laden Eastern Kentucky is in search of its first playoff win since 1994, when it defeated now-defunct Boston University 30-23 at Roy Kidd Stadium. EKU stumbled out of the gate to a 1-3 start. However, eight-straight victories has them looking more like the team that dominated their way to a undefeated 8-0 league mark last season.
The Colonels return 13 starters off that 2007 championship team, including the Ohio Valley Conference offensive player of the year, quarterback Allan Holland (1,940 yards, eight TDs, six interceptions).
Spearheading EKU's ground game is tailback C.J. Walker (679 yards, seven TDs), while the top receiving threats are Stephen Sizemore (46 receptions, 349 yards, 7.6 yards per catch, two TDs), while Stephon Fuqua (29 catches, 491yards, 16.9 yards per catch) has proven to be the top long-ball threat.
The key to getting a win at UR Stadium for the Colonels will be getting a solid game from a run defense that limits opponents to 135 rushing per game this season. Linebacker Tyjuan Jones paces the defense with 94 tackles and eight sacks, while safety Brandon Gathof (72 tackles, 2.5 sacks, five interceptions) provided the heroics that allowed the Colonels to even make the postseason with his game-winning blocked kick against Tennessee-Martin last week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Richmond 34, Eastern Kentucky 21.
11/27 12:23:09 ET