Eastern football takes off for Tennesee Tech


Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

For Eastern coach Kim Dameron, the Panthers’ matchup against Tennessee Tech gives his team the chance to once again become more balanced offensively.

For the first time since being named the outright starting quarterback, Jalen Whitlow threw for less than 100 yards, as Eastern defeated Tennessee State 28-3, last Saturday.

The Panthers’ offense was primarily backed by the running game, which gained 233 yards in the second half.

Dameron said that going into the 1:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Cookeville, Tenn., the Eastern offense would look to pass more.

“They’re not quite as daunting as maybe a Tennessee State team is,” Dameron said. “If you look at them statistically they have struggled just a little bit.”

The Golden Eagles are giving up 211 passing yards per game in Ohio Valley Conference play that ranks them fourth in the league.

Overall, Tennessee Tech’s defense is ranked sixth, surrendering 429.4 yards per game.

Dameron said the Golden Eagles are strong in their defensive line, though.

“The strength of their defense is kind of their inside defensive tackles,” he said.

Tennessee Tech is tied with Tennessee State for most sacks in the OVC, with 12.

Eastern’s offensive line, coupled with the offense’s emphasis on the run game and max protection scheme’s, have led to only four sacks allowed, which is the fewest in the conference.

Against the Tigers, Eastern allowed only one sack.

Dameron said Whitlow has a lot to do with the low sack total surrendered along with the passing plays being called.

“A lot of our routes and passes comes from play action,” Dameron said. “We’re getting better protecting up front.”

Whitlow has 391 rushing yards in the Panthers’ four OVC games this season.

He has rushed for seven touchdowns and averages seven yards per carry.

“When Jalen does get into those situations, where maybe there’s a free rusher or something like that he’s athletic enough to elude them,” Dameron said. “We shouldn’t be a team that gives up a lot of sacks.”

Eastern, which is 3-1 in the OVC, travels to Tucker Stadium for its third conference road game in the past four weeks.

The Panthers were able to win at Southeast Missouri on Oct. 18, backed by five turnovers.

Last Saturday at home, Eastern forced three more turnovers including two more interceptions.

The Panthers are tied with Eastern Kentucky for most interceptions in the OVC, with eight.

Dameron said the defense has simply kept pressing on the issue of getting more game after game.

“I’ve been really proud of the progress we’ve made in that area,” he said.

Offensively, Eastern has not thrown an interception in conference play and has a total of three giveaways, which all occurred at Eastern Kentucky, where the Panthers suffered their only OVC loss so far this season.

“If we don’t turn the football over, we’re a good team, we turn it over we get really average in a hurry,” Dameron said.

Eastern is 2-2 against Tennessee Tech, winning the last two meetings.

The Golden Eagles are 2-3 in the OVC this season.

The Panthers are still in a good position to clinch at least a share of the OVC title if they win out.

Winning their last two games, Dameron said the Panthers are becoming more confident.

“Our kids, to give credit never lost confidence,” Dameron said. “They understood where we were, who we were playing and also offensively that we were going through a heck of a transition.”

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