Panthers blanked by Wildcats

Dameron calls day “frustrating,” in 41-0 loss


Jason Howell

The Panther defense fails to prevent a touchdown by Northwestern’s Justin Jackson during the 41-0 loss on Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.

Sean Hastings, Assistant Sports Editor

EVANSTON, Ill ­— The Eastern football team was shut out 41-0 by Northwestern Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston.

The shut out was the first time Eastern was held scoreless in a game since Oct. 11, 2003, when the Panthers lost 41-0 to Eastern Kentucky.

Eastern coach Kim Dameron was looking for his tam to get better this week, but said it was hard to tell because of the score because his team played ‘a pretty darn good football team’.

“They are pretty good,” Dameron said. “They will win a bunch of games. I truly believe that. They don’t beat themselves and their athleticism on defense is much improved from just what I can remember Northwestern defenses being. Their offensive line did a really good job.”

The game had a positive start as the Panthers stop the Wildcats from scoring a touchdown after having 1st and goal inside the 10-yard line. Junior defensive lineman Jarvis Williams sacked Wildcat red-shirt freshman Clayton Thorson on 3rd and goal.

The sack forced Northwestern junior Jack Mitchell to attempt a 22-yard field goal, which he made to put the Wildcats up 3-0 5:19 into the game. Mitchell was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts.

The Wildcats offense got rolling after Eastern had two 3-and-outs in the first quarter.

Northwestern's Solomon Vault avoids the tackle by red-shirt sophomore safety Vince Speller during the Panthers' 41-0 loss at Ryan Field in Evanstan, Ill
Jason Howell
Northwestern’s Solomon Vault avoids the tackle by red-shirt sophomore safety Vince Speller during the Panthers’ 41-0 loss at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill

Wildcat sophomore running back Justin Jackson ran through the Eastern defense for an 11-yard touchdown to give Northwestern a 10-0 lead with 1:40 left in the 1st quarter.

During the course of the game the Panthers forced Northwestern into 17 third downs, but the Wildcats were able to pick up 10 of them. Dameron knows that stat needs to be improved on both sides of the ball.

“We got them in some third and longs and we still let them pick them up,” Dameron said, “That’s what happens when you let the quarterback get out of the pocket.”

The Panthers knew they would be playing a tough defense in Northwestern, and Dameron said that they didn’t allow them to get anything going running the ball or throwing the ball.

After Northwestern took a three-score lead, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald wanted to give Jackson a rest and was using multiple running backs throughout the rest of the game.

“We knew they were going to load the box,” he said. “Last year watching Eastern on tape, I know they only won five games, but we were really impressed with what they were doing in all three phases with their talent.”

Thorson was 11-for-16 passing the ball in the game for 152 yards and a touchdown that was to junior wide receiver Austin Carr for 44 yards with 9:18 left in the 3rd quarter.

Fitzgerald said Thorson’s decision making out of the pocket was excellent.

“He didn’t try to force anything,” he said. “There was one play that was a little muddy, and instead of trying to force the ball, he threw it away.”

Eastern senior quarterback Jalen Whitlow was 10-for-19 throwing with one interception for 68 yards. The interception was a shovel pass that was intercepted by Northwestern safety Matthew Harris and returned 71 yards for a touchdown with 1:08 left in the 3rd quarter.

Junior Devin Church had 63 rushing yards on 10 attempts. He also had 120 kick-off return yards on six attempts.

Defensively, sophomore free safety Bradley Dewberry led the Panthers with 12 total tackles, six of which were solo. Junior linebacker Seth McDonald added 10, three being solo.

There were a few plays in the game that Dameron said makes the team looks like they were under-coached and that falls on him.

He added that he can deal with a team that beats them physically, but ‘self-inflicting’ things cannot happen.

Despite the score and not having much offensive success, Dameron was happy with how his team continued to fight.

“I don’t think we ever laid down,” Dameron said, “I think we kept competing as a team and that is always big when you’re playing against somebody that outclasses you in that way, and you get down it’s easy to say ‘the heck with it, I’ll just pack it in.’ I don’t think we did that.”

The Panthers improved on penalties and taking care of the ball in Saturday’s game compared to the game last week against Western Illinois.

Eastern turned the ball over twice and was penalized three times for 17 yards, and Dameron said that was a major improvement.

The Panthers now will be getting ready to come home to O’Brien Field for the home opener against instate rival Illinois State, who Dameron said is a ‘heck of a defense’.

“It is going to keep coming now,” he said. “We have to get some things right. We have moved the ball a little bit at times, but we get close to the fringe of the red zone, and we seem like we freeze up or something.

The Panthers and Redbirds will get underway at 7 p.m Saturday.


Sean Hastings can be reached at [email protected] or 581-2812