RICHMOND, Va. — By taking control of the turnover game earlier in the season, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels took control of their destiny.
The Colonels ended the regular season with seven consecutive victories, another Ohio Valley Conference title and a 19th trip to the NCAA playoffs. They were plus-16 in turnovers, one of the top 10 teams in the Championship Subdivision.
When they lost the turnover battle, 4-2, to Richmond on Saturday, they lost in the first round, 38-10. They were outscored 28-0 in the second half, three scores coming after turnovers.
Eastern's mistakes and the improved running game by the Spiders after halftime sent Richmond to the second round of the Division I playoffs.
"We'd done a good job all year, but they hurt us (Saturday)," EKU quarterback Allan Holland said. "We didn't make enough good plays."
Holland said he tried to throw the ball over Richmond linebacker Patrick Weldon in the third quarter, but Weldon intercepted. "Then we fumbled the next time. That put our defense in a bind."
The Spiders (10-3) wound up with an advantage in total yards of 412-269. The Colonels (8-4) were limited to four first downs and 58 yards in the second half. The Spiders kept possession 21 minutes after the break.
After the break
Eastern's defense did a creditable job in the first half, leaving the field in a 10-10 deadlock.
But Richmond's ability to get a tying field goal in the last half-minute shifted the momentum, especially when the Spiders scored on the opening possession.
"We felt we'd done a good job in the first half," said EKU safety Brandon Gathof, a three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference first-teamer. "They made big plays, and we didn't defend."
Richmond's 28-0 advantage after the break isn't surprising. The Spiders are outscoring opponents 211-114 in the second half this season. Richmond also has scored 128 points on turnovers. The home team scored 14 Saturday.
Eastern's loss continued the OVC's post-season futility. The league has dropped its last 13 games since former member Western Kentucky defeated Florida A&M 27-0 in the 2000 Division I-AA playoffs. The Toppers lost to Appalachian State the next week.
Only three OVC teams have scored in double figures. League foes have scored 59, 49 (twice), 48 and 45 points. Only three times have OVC schools kept the losing margin to single figures.
Life in the Top 10
The Spiders were ranked seventh in the latest Sports Network poll — the 18th consecutive week in the Top 10. That's the third-longest streak in the Championship Subdivision.
Two in a row
The Spiders defeated Eastern 31-14 here last year in the first round.