Nov. 18—KENNESAW — For the first time in six seasons, Kennesaw State will enter the final game of the regular season with no chance to reach the postseason.
However, that does not mean there is nothing to play for.
Since they first took the field in 2015, the Owls (5-5, 1-3 ASUN Conference) have never had a losing season. To avoid the first, they will have to beat Eastern Kentucky (6-4, 2-2) on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Kentucky.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Kennesaw State had made the postseason in four of the last six seasons, and a big part of that was because of the members of this season's senior class. Three times, they helped lead the team into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
They helped the Owls win the 2018 and 2021 Big South Conference championships and continue their success as the best startup program in FCS history. They are also part of the foundation Kennesaw State to move to Conference USA in two years.
However, the team's .500 mark this season has been a challenge not just to them, but to everyone involved.
"Those guys have done a ton," Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said. "They've been a part of championships won here. It's unfortunate for those guys that we're in the position we're in, but I've encouraged the team to play for them. I grabbed them afterward (following last week's loss to Austin Peay) and said, 'We have to go finish this thing the right way.'
"I hate the way it is now because it probably isn't fair (to them)."
The 13 seniors — including quarterback Jonathan Murphy, running back Isaac Foster, offensive linemen Terrell Paxton and Zion Katina, defensive linemen Travis Bell and Desmond Scott, and defensive back Markieith Montgomery — hold a .776 winning percentage with a record of 38-11 over the past four fall seasons.
To get the sixth win of the season and finish about .500, the Owls will have to contain Eastern Kentucky quarterback Parker McKinney, who has thrown for 3,075 yards and 23 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. He is also the Colonels' second-leading rusher with 373 yards and eight scores.
Eastern Kentucky comes in averaging 34.8 points and 436 yards per game. It will be up to Kennesaw State defense, which is allowing 403 yards per game, to return to the ball-hawking ways it showed during a three game-winning streak the preceded last week's loss to Austin Peay.
Kennesaw State will be shorthanded in the finale. It will be missing linebackers Juandarion Silas, Charles Remy and Mike Mincy, all of whom have played significant snaps this season. Also on the sideline will be wide receiver Xavier Hill and defensive back Chance Gamble, while offensive lineman Matt Olson is listed as doubtful and Bell is questionable.
On the air
The game can be seen on ESPN+ and heard on the KSU Owls app.