Eastern drops out of top-25

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

For the first time since Nov. 12, 2012, the Eastern football team is not ranked in the top-25 in either of the major FCS polls after falling to 0-3 with its 34-15 loss to Illinois State Saturday.

For the second straight week the Panthers’ opponent has jumped into the top-25 of at least one poll. Illinois State improved to 2-0 with its win over Eastern and surpassed the Panthers, taking their No. 24 ranking in the FCS Coaches Poll.

Last week, Southern Illinois-Carbondale moved into the No. 20 spot in the Sports Network Poll with its win on Sept. 6, at O’Brien Field over Eastern. The Salukis are currently ranked No. 16 in the Sports Network Poll and No. 13 in the FCS Coaches Poll, following their 50-23 win over Southeast Missouri Saturday.

The Panthers are still receiving votes in both polls, but for now are simply trying to get back in the winning column heading into its Ohio Valley Conference home opener at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at O’Brien Field. Eastern hosts 0-2 Austin Peay.

Eastern head coach Kim Dameron said the Panthers could not be looking at the Governors’ record that includes 14 straight losses.

“We need to continue to concentrate on us,” Dameron said. “For us to start looking at who it is or what they’ve done or not done or anything like that is not what we need to do.”

The Panthers are 0-3 for the first time since 2010, when they finished 2-9.

Austin Peay head coach Kirby Cannon said he is using mostly freshmen during games this season, as they are the ones that give the Governors the best chance to win. Although they are off to a slow start this season, Dameron said the Governors are a young and passionate team that Eastern cannot take lightly Saturday.

“I see a group down there that is hungry and getting better,” he said. “So, the thing that we have to do is make sure we’re also hungry and have a burning desire to get better.”

Austin Peay has not won a game since the 2012 season finale against Tennessee Tech, as the win also marked the Governors last OVC victory 38-31.

Eastern starts OVC play as the two-time defending champion. The Panthers also have a 12-game conference winning-streak after going 14-1 in league play during the past two years.

The last time Eastern lost to an OVC opponent was on the road at Tennessee-Martin on Oct. 6, 2012, losing 51-37. The Panthers have not lost a home OVC game since Nov. 5, 2011, when Tennessee State won 18-17.

 

OVC in top-25

Although Eastern was ousted from the top-25 in both FCS polls, the OVC still has three teams ranked.

Jacksonville State, which had a bye week, remained ranked No. 8 and No. 9 in the FCS Coaches Poll and Sports Network Poll, respectively.

The Gamecocks are 1-1 this season, losing to Michigan State in their season opener and then beating Chattanooga 26-23 in overtime on Sept. 6 on the road.

Tennessee State went up two spots in the coaches poll from 22 to 20, as the Tigers beat Jackson State 35-7 Saturday and improved to 2-1 this season. The Tigers are also ranked No. 20 in the Sports Network Poll.

Eastern Kentucky, which is the only 3-0 team in the OVC, went from No. 25 to No. 22 in the FCS Coaches Poll with its 55-13 win over Morehead State Saturday. The Colonels also beat Miami (Ohio) an FBS program 17-10 on Sept. 6.

The Colonels made their first appearance in the Sports Network Poll this season, as they were also ranked No. 23 this week.

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