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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 26, ISSUE 6 87 Elite EKU D ean Hood won 55 games in his eight seasons as Eastern Kentucky's head coach, an average of nearly seven per year. But after a 6-5 finish to 2015, the veteran boss was dis- missed, with EKU hiring Mark Elder, previously the tight ends coach at Tennessee, as its new head coach. And now, expectations are as high as ever. "The expectations are to win and to win big right away," said Nathan Hutchison, who covers EKU for the Richmond Register. "The school adminis- tration has really been pushing the past few years to get an in- vitation to move up to an FBS conference. They have been in talks with the Sun Belt but have yet to get an offer. "They've poured a lot of money into fa- cility upgrades and they have even parted ways with several coaches who they be- lieve have underachieved. So Elder will not get much of a honeymoon period. He will be expected to win right away." He might be able to, especially if the Colonels' offense turns out to be as good as it could be. A reason for optimism is quarterback, where not only does EKU have returning starter Bennie Coney but also welcomes in transfer Maty Mauk. Although the for- mer Missouri QB brings baggage — he was dismissed from the Tigers' program in January — his talent is undeniable. He threw for 2,648 yards and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014, before his trou- bles, including an arrest and alleged drug use, began. "Realistically with the addition of a guy who was a standout in the SEC, it would be a little shocking if Maty Mauk wasn't the starter in the opener against Purdue," Hutchison said. "Mauk did not go through spring practice with the team and was not on campus for the first summer session. But, unless he is unable to pick up on the offense, or runs into problems, it seems likely he will step right in and start and Coney will be the backup." And if that happens, it gives EKU in- stant credibility on offense. Ideally, however, it'd like to find a No. 1 running back after its top four rush- ers (Coney included) combined for only 1,302 yards last year. Maybe Ethan Thom- as, who was on the All-Ohio Valley New- comer Team as a freshman in '15, gets a bigger role after totaling a team-high 498 yards rushing in his debut. The defense might be a work in prog- 2015 Results (6-5) 9/3 VALPARAISO . . . . . . . W, 52-10 9/12 at N.C. State . . . . . . . . . L, 0-35 9/26 AUSTIN-PEAY. . . . . . . W, 51-13 10/3 at Kentucky . . . . . . . . L, 27-34 10/8 TENNESSEE TECH . . . W, 48-17 10/17 at SE Missouri . . . . . . W, 27-10 10/24 TENNESSEE STATE . . W, 45-21 10/31 at Jacksonville St . . . . . L, 0-34 11/7 TENNESSEE-MARTIN . L, 35-42 11/14 at Murray State . . . . . W, 41-34 11/21 at Eastern Illinois . . . . . L, 7-21 EKU Only four starters return to the EKU defense, one being fifth-year senior defensive tackle Avery Pitt, who had six tackles for loss last season. Eastern Kentucky Colonels SEPT. 3 ROSS-ADE STADIUM TIME: NOON • TV: ESPNEWS COACH: MARK ELDER RECORD AT EASTERN KENTUCKY: FIRST YEAR RECORD VS. PURDUE: FIRST MEETING 2016 Schedule 9/3 at Purdue 9/8 PIKEVILLE 9/17 at Ball State 10/1 at Tennessee Tech 10/8 SE MISSOURI 10/15 at Tennessee State 10/22 JACKSONVILLE ST 10/29 at Tennessee-Martin 11/5 MURRAY STATE 11/12 at Austin-Peay 11/19 EASTERN ILLINOIS G O L D A N D B L AC K 'S E A R LY L I N E : P U R D U E - 15 Eastern Kentucky has the second-most playoff trips of any schools in FCS history. Here's the list (most recent appearance): Eastern Kentucky has posted a winning record in 42 of its last 43 seasons. It's only losing season during that stretch was in 2009 when it finished 5-6, two years after former Purdue coach Danny Hope had left the Colonels. 2016 Opponent Preview Montana 24 (2014) Eastern Kentucky 21 (2014) Appalachian State 20 (2012) Georgia Southern 19 (2012) Northern Iowa 18 (2014)

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