Whitlow rushes toward weekly award

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

Another week, another award for Eastern quarterback Jalen Whitlow.

For the fourth time this season, the junior signal caller has been named Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week, following his five-touchdown performance in the Panthers’ 52-13 win over Southeast Missouri on Saturday.

Not counting Eastern’s bye week, Whitlow has been honored with the newcomer of the week award four consecutive times.

He rushed for three touchdowns against the Redhawks, two coming in the second quarter and his third coming early in the fourth quarter that put the Panthers ahead 45-13, with a two-yard run. Whitlow’s second-quarter rushing touchdowns were from three and 13 yards out.

The Kentucky transfer also threw two touchdown passes, both coming to Charleston native Adam Drake. Whitlow’s first touchdown pass against the Redhawks came in the opening quarter, when he faked a handoff and then threw a 50-yard touchdown to Drake.

Whitlow’s second score through the air was a five-yard pass to Drake on a fourth and one play in the third quarter. Whitlow finished 17-of-30, for 213 yards, while carrying the ball 15 times for 75 yards.

Drake was a big help Saturday, catching seven passes for 110 yards. Whitlow’s No. 1 target has been Drake ever since the quarterback was named the outright starter prior to Eastern’s OVC opener against Austin Peay on Sept. 20.

“Drake, he can run and he’s a well-rounded guy,” Whitlow said.

In the past four games, Whitlow has thrown seven touchdowns, four going to Drake.

Against Southeast Missouri, Whitlow was fortunate enough to have a couple passes dropped by Redhawks’ defenders and was able to extend his interception-less streak to four games. In that stretch, he is averaging 3.5 total touchdowns per game.

Whitlow is tied with Eastern Kentucky running back Dy’Shawn Mobley for the most rushing touchdowns at eight, while the quarterback also leads the OVC in total offense, averaging 258.7 total yards per game.

Upsets in the OVC

Along with Eastern’s win on the road against a previously ranked team, Tennessee Tech took advantage of its home field and beat No. 12 Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin won on the road at Tennessee State and Austin Peay defeated Murray State.

Following two straight losses by a single touchdown against Southeast Missouri and Jacksonville State, Tennessee State welcomed the 2-5 Skyhawks into Hale Stadium on Saturday.

The Tennessee-Martin defense recovered a fumble and also returned an interception for a touchdown, as the Skyhawks won 21-16 in Nashville, Tenn. Jarod Neal completed 11-of-18 passes and threw a touchdown pass for the Skyhawks, who picked up their first road win against the Tigers since 2008.

Although Tennessee State quarterback Michael German threw for 341 yards and had two passing touchdowns, the late fourth-quarter surge by the Tigers was not enough, as the Skyhawks were able to run-out the final 4:34 of the game.

Tennessee State coach Rod Reed said he was not thrilled about the two turnovers that directly led to 14 points for Tennessee-Martin during his postgame press conference.

“That team practically scored 14 points and the defense wasn’t even on the field,” Reed said.

The Tigers’ defense only allowed 210 yards of offense, but Tennessee State still trailed 21-3, entering the fourth quarter. Reed was also disappointed with the team’s running game that netted 53 yards on 24 attempts.

Eastern hosts Tennessee State at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at O’Brien Field, where the Tigers will try to snap their three-game conference losing streak.

Austin Peay had its own losing streak heading into its home game against Murray State, am 18-game losing streak, but the freshmen-led Governors broke it with a 20-13 win.

Quarterback Mickey Macius threw three touchdown passes to fellow freshman Jared Beard, while freshman running back Otis Gerron rushed for 137 yards, leading Austin Peay to its first win since 2012.

Murray State has the worst OVC record along with Tennessee State at 1-3, while the Governors improved to 1-2 in conference play and 1-6 overall.

Macius was named co-OVC Newcomer of the Week along with Whitlow, as he completed 18-of-22 passes for 201 yards, adding his three touchdown passes for Austin Peay.

No. 12 Eastern Kentucky carried its six-game winning streak into Cookeville, Tenn., to face Tennessee Tech, which was 2-4 prior to Saturday’s final. The Golden Eagles soared past the Colonels, erasing a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter, outscoring Tennessee Tech 29-0 in the final 15 minutes to win 39-31.

Darian Stone was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week, Marty Jones was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week and Ladarius Vanlier was named OVC Specialist of the Week, as the three Golden Eagles all contributed to the comeback win.

Stone threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, while Jones tied a conference record with four interception, two coming in the final 1:07 of the game and Vanlier scored a 79-yard punt return touchdown and sealed the victory for Tennessee Tech with a 63-yard rushing touchdown with 2:01 left to play.

The loss dropped Eastern Kentucky to 3-1 in the OVC, while Tennessee Tech evened its conference record to 2-2. The Colonels’ defeat comes a week after they overcame a 26-5 Panthers’ lead in the third quarter.

Jacksonville State is now the only team in the OVC with a perfect league record at 3-0, as the Gamecocks were on their bye week.

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