Turnovers, penalties plague Panthers in loss

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Turnovers and penalties were the beginning of the end for the Eastern football team Thursday night at Western Illinois.

The Panthers turned the ball over six times and were penalized 14 times for 113 yards in the 33-5 loss to the Leathernecks.

Three interceptions were thrown by senior quarterback Jalen Whitlow, who completed 17-of-36 passes for 153 yards.

Six of those passes were caught by red-shirt junior running back Devin Church, who finished the game with six receptions for 43 yards.

Red-shirt junior Isaiah Nelson hauled in three more passes for a total of 69. His counterpart, junior Lance Lenoir from Western Illinois, recorded 10 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown. He also returned two kickoffs for 105 yards and three punts for 51 yards.

Graduate student Jerron Seymour led the Panthers’ rushing attack with 62 yards on 12 carries. Whitlow followed with 51 yards on 15 carries. Eastern finished with a total of 155 yards rushing. They outrushed the Leathernecks, who finished with 77 yards.

The Panthers were able to move the ball early in the game. A fumble recovery by senior defensive end Thomas Coronado led to an Eastern drive down to the Western goal line, but problems with the snap on a quarterback sneak attempt resulted in a fumble recovery by Western.

Eastern forced the Leathernecks to go three-and-out on the next drive, but redshirt freshman cornerback Timothy Smith intercepted Whitlow’s intended pass to red-shirt junior wide receiver Anthony Taylor. The defense forced another three and out on the next drive, and the Panthers offense was able to pick up points on the next drive.

A 33-yard catch by Nelson would set up a good 33-yard field goal by sophomore Nick Bruno. That field goal would be the Panthers only lead of the game, as the Leathernecks scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Trenton Norvell to Lenoir.

Norvell completed 18-of-34 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown.

Junior middle linebacker Seth McDonald led the Panthers with 15 tackles, including 10 that were solo. McDonald was starting in his first game at middle linebacker for the Panthers. Red-shirt sophomore and safety Vince Speller joined McDonald in recording double-digit tackles. Speller totaled 12 tackles, including eight that were solo.

The Panthers held the Leathernecks to 67 yards rushing, and also returned an extra point attempt for a safety. The ball was blocked at the line and sophomore Bradley Dewberry took the ball away from a Leatherneck and returned it to the end zone for the two points.

Western scored its previous touchdown on an interception return by sophomore linebacker Brett Taylor. The Leathernecks scored 16 points on drives, following a Panther turnover, including the interception return by Taylor.

The Panthers failed to score a touchdown in a game for the first time since October 2009. On that day, the Panthers were kept out of the end zone by Penn State. They did outgain the Leathernecks 308 to 226.

The Panthers will face a Big Ten opponent next week when they travel north to Evanston to take on Northwestern. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNews.


Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]