|« CCSU Linebacker Marino Plays With A Purpose||A Passion Rediscovered at VMI »|
Hood working to end EKU's six-game skid
Dean Hood said he doesn’t read newspapers or blogs. Eastern Kentucky University’s football coach doesn’t even watch his own television show.
His alarm goes off at 4:30a.m., and he heads to his office. Sometimes he stays on campus until 10p.m., and the rest of the time he’s with his family. He’s consumed with his job — and trying to end EKU’s worst slump since 1963.
These are tough times for tradition-rich EKU (0-3). The Football Championship Subdivision program has lost six straight dating to last year, something that hadn’t happened since an eight-game slide 47 years ago. The Colonels have a bye this week before playing their home opener against NCAA DivisionII Kentucky State on Oct.2.
“(Coaching is) a way of life, and you work 80 hours a week,” Hood said. “What you get paid doesn’t matter. Your paycheck is a win on Saturday. …You’ve got to win to keep the ‘for-sale signs from being in front of your house.”
EKU entered this season expected to contend for another Ohio Valley Conference championship. The Colonels have won 20 league titles — 11 more than any other current OVC member. They don’t start conference play until an Oct.9 home game against Eastern Illinois, so they could win it again.
Hood believed he had a title-caliber team, but losses to Missouri State, Louisville and Chattanooga have the coach wondering.
“If you would have asked me at the beginning, I would say no question,” Hood said of his team’s OVC chances. “Now it’s more of a wait and see.”
Quarterback T.J. Pryor is third in the league in passing yards per game (214.0), but the Ballard High product hasn’t received much offensive support. The Colonels are 108th of 117 FCS schools in rushing yards per game (61.7).
The offensive line has four new starters, and no tailback has emerged. Kyle Lumpkin leads the team with 57 rushing yards on 20 carries, and EKU is still looking for its first rushing TD.
Injuries have also played a role. All-OVC cornerback Jeremy Caldwell (sports hernia) played sparingly in the season opener at Missouri State. In the 23-13 loss at Louisville, Pryor left with a pulled groin and All-OVC linebacker Jordan Dalrymple missed most of the game with an undisclosed illness.
Caldwell offers no excuses.
“We’re not playing like how we should be playing,” the junior said. “We’re making dumb plays. We have to start executing.”
EKU has gotten off to slow starts before. The Colonels were 1-3 in 2008, Hood’s first season. They wound up 8-4 and repeated as OVC champions.
“We still feel like we can win all of our conference games,” Pryor said.
EKU was in position to win the OVC last year but finished 5-6 for its first losing season since 1972. Athletic director Mark Sandy said he is optimistic that the Colonels will have a good season, pointing out that they haven’t played at home yet.
“We expect to do well, so the pressure is there to win,” Sandy said. But we’re just focusing on getting people healthy and getting ready to play the next eight games.”
Hood, who is under contract through 2012, said he doesn’t think about external criticism of his program. When asked what he hopes to see against Kentucky State, said: “I just want to win. Our football team needs a win.”
By Michael Grant, The Courier-Journal