RICHMOND — Payback will be on the minds of the Eastern Kentucky Colonels when they visit the University of Richmond in the first round of the NCAA playoffs Saturday.
Fresh from winning the Ohio Valley Conference title and an automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision post-season, the Colonels will try to atone for a 31-14 road loss last year.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I hope the second time is better," said EKU quarterback Allan Holland, who was already banged up and left last year's game with a shoulder injury in the first half. "I'm a lot more healthy going to Richmond.
"Our expectations are higher. We've played a lot of big games and been battle-tested all season."
The Colonels (8-3) started 1-3, including an OVC-opening loss to Tennessee State. Eastern hasn't lost since, finishing 7-1 in the league after an 8-0 record last year.
Eastern's first-year coach Dean Hood said, "It's a great thing to get a second opportunity against the team that knocked you out the year before. No matter who it is, we're excited."
Hood praised the Colonels for winning the OVC after a slow start.
"This team showed character and heart, and that's why we're in the position we're in," he said.
Hood echoed the promise he made to EKU fans when he was hired on Jan. 22: "You'll see a team that deserves victory on Saturday."
Senior safety Brandon Gathof said, "We won't have to adjust to our surroundings as much. I know they've got a good quarterback from last year (Eric Ward). I'm sure he was better this year."
The Spiders (9-3) were an at-large selection to the 16-team bracket. They were third in the Colonial Athletic Association South (6-2) behind top-seeded James Madison and Villanova.
Richmond reached the playoffs by defeating William & Mary 23-20 in overtime Saturday.
Eastern Athletic Director Mark Sandy is serving his first year on the FCS championship committee.
"Everything seemed to fall into place except for one or two teams at the end," he said.
Sandy was a senior associate athletics director at Richmond for five years before coming to Eastern.
Cumberlands will visit St. Francis (Ind.) in the second round of the NAIA playoffs Saturday in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The Patriots won their first post-season game with a 31-7 triumph over Shorter, another member of the Mid-South Conference.
St. Francis routed Union of the MSC 58-3 in the first round. The Cougars have won 51 consecutive home games. and have finished the regular season unbeaten four of the last five years. They also have won nine conference titles in the last 10 years.