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When asked about his decision, Felker came up with the usual stuff about plenty of time being left on the clock for another score and about his team playing so hard that it didn't deserve to lose. Blah, blah, blah. It sounded like a replay of Auburn coach Pat Dye's excuses after settling for a 26-26 tie with Tennessee on Sept. 29 instead of going for two points and the win.
But Felker's decision was more difficult to justify than Dye's. The 3-4 Bulldogs don't have to worry about polls and bowls, as Dye did. So why not go for it? What's to lose except just another game? A victory, conversely, would have salvaged the season, provided the Bulldog program with some recruiting clout and given the seniors something to brag about for the rest of their lives. And, finally, what were the odds against Mississippi State getting the ball back and picking up enough yardage against Auburn's potent defense for a field goal attempt? Higher, surely, than the Bulldogs' chances of converting a two-pointer.
At least Felker was right about one thing: His players came up with a winning effort, especially linebacker Reggie Stewart, who had 16 solo tackles and 10 assists. The Bulldogs were that close to pulling off something straight out of a Hollywood movie. Uh, Coach Felker, you have seen Rocky, haven't you?
THE COLONELS MARCH
With starting quarterback Lorenzo Fields sidelined by a broken leg and top running back Markus Thomas hobbled by a sprained right ankle, unbeaten Eastern Kentucky, the top-ranked team in Division I-AA, looked vulnerable going into last Saturday's game against 5-2 Tennessee Tech in Richmond, Ky. But Eastern, like all good teams, always seems to have somebody on the depth chart who can step in and do the job.
Against Tech, the most obvious heroes were third-string quarterback Joey Crenshaw, who completed all seven of his passes for 58 yards, and backup tailback Tim Lester, whose 291 yards rushing (on 41 carries) left him only nine yards short of the Ohio Valley Conference record set last season by Thomas. However, Tennessee Tech quarterback Bert Browne knew who really deserved most of the credit for the win. "Their offensive line is not a college line, it's a pro line," Brown said. "The defense is awesome, too. They've got it all. They deserve to be Number 1."
Backup quarterback Dewby Berkhalter started the game for the Colonels in place of Fields, who broke his left leg during the previous week's 55-17 win over Tennessee State. However, when Tech defensive back Mike Stewart intercepted a Berkhalter pass and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to give the visitors a 14-0 lead, Eastern coach Roy Kidd didn't hesitate to go to Crenshaw, who had played at Louisville in 1988 before transferring to a junior college last year. With Crenshaw passing just often enough to keep Tech honest, the Colonels gave a clinic on how to use the ground game. They pulled to within five points (14-9) at halftime, then took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, which Lester scored from 13 yards out. "That was the key," said Tech coach Jim Ragland. "That drive gave them their confidence back." For the game, Eastern gained 420 yards rushing and controlled the ball for more than 40 minutes.
"Give credit to the line," said Crenshaw. "I said, 'It's time to roll.' The rest is history."
By the time this season is history, the Colonels could prove to be Kidd's best team, which is no small tribute when you're talking about a coach who has won two Division I-AA national titles and 216 games in his 27-year career.
BIG EIGHT SHOWDOWN