Eastern falls in FCS polls

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

The Eastern football team dropped in both major FCS polls, following its 38-21 loss Saturday at O’Brien Field.

Entering its home opener ranked No. 14 and 16 in the Coaches Poll and Sports Network Poll, respectively, the Panthers tumbled to No. 24 and 25, respectively.

Southern Illinois-Carbondale leaped 11 positions in the Coaches Poll from No. 25 to No. 14 and moved up to No. 20 in the Sports Network Poll after not being ranked the week before. The Salukis are 2-0 after beating Eastern Saturday.

Before the season started, Eastern was ranked No. 11 in the Coaches Poll, while in the Sports Network Poll the Panthers were No. 16.

Eastern is one of three Ohio Valley Conference teams that remain in the top-25 in both polls.

Jacksonville State, which started its season with a 45-7 loss to Michigan State, beat Chattanooga 26-23 in overtime Saturday in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Gamecocks stayed ranked No. 9 in the Sports Network Poll and jumped up to its preseason ranking in the Coaches Poll at No. 8.

Tennessee State lost its first game of the season to Alabama State 27-21 on the road in Montgomery, Ala., which dropped the Tigers eight and six spots in the Sports Network Poll and Coaches Poll, respectively.

The Tigers went from No. 14 to No. 22 in the Sports Network Poll and fell from No. 16 to No. 22 in the Coaches Poll.

Eastern has been in the top-25 in either FCS poll since Nov. 12, 2012. The Panthers’ current rankings are the lowest since the 2012 season, when Eastern finished ranked No. 25 in the Coaches Poll.

Around the OVC

Jacksonville State had two players receive weekly honors, as quarterback Eli Jenkins earned Offensive Player of the Week and Devaunte Sigler was awarded as the Newcomer of the Week.

The Gamecocks traveled to No. 13 Chattanooga Saturday and walked away with a 26-23 overtime win, as Jenkins scored the game-winning touchdown on a 13-yard run.

Jenkins finished the game with 82 rushing yards on eight carries. He added 122 passing yards, completing 15-of-21 pass attempts.

Sigler, a defensive tackle who transferred from Auburn, had five tackles, including two tackles-for-loss and a sack. He also forced a fumble against Chattanooga. The junior transfer led Jacksonville State’s defense that allowed 111 total yards. Chattanooga had negative six yards of total offense in the first half and did not pick up a first down until 11 minutes left in the third quarter.

Jenkins and Sigler led the Gamecocks to their sixth win in their last eight games against nationally ranked opponents.

Eastern Kentucky’s Stanley Absanon was named Defensive Player of the Week, following his two-interception performance against Miami (Ohio) Saturday.

The junior defensive back sealed the Colonels first win against an FBS program since 1985, intercepting RedHawks’ quarterback Andrew Hendrix with less than one minute to play in the game. Eastern Kentucky won 17-10, snapping an 18-game losing streak against FBS teams.

Absanon’s first interception came in the third quarter, when he picked off Hendrix at the Colonels’ 45-yard line and then returned it 55 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 10. He added six tackles and three pass breakups, leading Eastern Kentucky’s defense.

Tennessee Tech red-shirt junior Ladarius Vanlier was the Specialist of the Week, after returning a punt 72 yards for a touchdown.

He accumulated 200-all purpose yards, as he returned four kickoffs for 112 yards. Vanlier also had nine rushing yards and five receiving yards,

The Golden Eagle ranks fifth nationally in punt returns, (20.4 yards per return) 14th nationally in kickoff returns (26.8 yards per return) and 15th nationally in all-purpose yards (178.5 yards per game).

Aldo Soto can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].