As Eastern students return home for the holiday weekend, EKU Football looks to start off it’s 2016 season with a victory against the favored Big Ten competitor, Purdue University.
The Boilermakers, 2-10 in 2015, are looking to bounce back from a lackluster season with the addition of two new coordinators, while the Colonels, 6-5, and new head coach Mark Elder are excited to introduce a completely renovated team unafraid of a big-name rival.
“I don’t care if 60 show up or 60,000—we are there to compete and we are there to win,” Elder said.
After an unsettling overtime loss against the University of Kentucky last season, fans and media applauded the Colonels for coming close to a bigger, more known Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school. Coach Elder, however, said close games are not enough.
“Coming out here and competing and getting close is not enough,” Elder said. “There is not a single guy when you walk into that team meeting room that is interested in a moral victory.”
“Finishing second-best isn’t something we’re interested in.”
Citing the well-known Appalachian State victory over Michigan, as well as the Colonel’s defeat of Miami OH two years ago, as a constant cite for motivation,
Elder said he knows his team is ready to compete.
With a new head coach, philosophy and schedule, the Colonels have a lot to prove on the big stage. Purdue is 11-0 all-time against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) competitors and harbors a large, veteran defensive line. With 22 more scholarship players, the Boilermakers add a depth Eastern cannot.
Still, Elder said he is confident in EKU’s
abilities—especially at the highly-anticipated quarterback position.
The competitiveness at every position, Elder said, makes individual players, and in turn the team, better.
While he refused to announce the starting quarterback for Saturday, Elder praised all quarterbacks,
including Missouri transfer Maty Mauk and returning starter Bennie Conley, for their work in the preseason.
Whoever the starting quarterback is will have a tough foil to face in Purdue sophomore David Blough, often known for scrambling in his first season, as he
has impressed coaches and fans with plays in the pocket during the preseason as well.
Additionally, players at all positions for the Boilermakers are trained at a high-level, some of which may have the opportunity to play at the next level in coming years.
The game, just like any versus an FBS school, may be more exciting than others for fans, but Elder and
company are adamant that the game will be treated like any other game.
“It’s like what Coach Elder told us yesterday, we’re not going to Purdue for a vacation,” senior defensive back Kiante Northington said. “They might be fifteen pounds heavier than us or an inch taller than us, but we’re going to play with a lot of heart and effort like we always do.”
The game plan is set, the team is ready and all that is left to do is execute. Watch the Colonels take on Purdue University Saturday, Sept 3 at noon on ESPNews.