Late miscues cost Panthers

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern football team came up short in a 34-31 overtime defeat to Illinois State in the 104th Mid-America classic on Saturday.

The Panthers had a chance to win the game in the final moments of the fourth quarter, but sophomore kicker Nick Bruno missed a 32-yard field goal, which went wide right. That miss forced the game to go into overtime.

Red-shirt junior Devin Church had the biggest game of his Eastern career, rushing for 109 yards, after rushing for 82 yards through his first two games of the season.

He also scored on a five-yard touchdown run, but also fumbled the ball on Eastern’s first possession in overtime. Officials ruled that Church wasn’t down when he ran up the middle of the Panthers offensive line, and the Redbirds took over on offense.

Eastern coach Kim Dameron told Church to forget about that mistake and forget about it because he played a great game, but said that the Panthers need to never grow tired of protecting the football, which was something that the players were told near the end of the game.

“Obviously the message didn’t get sent enough,” Dameron said. “Those are things we have to continue to coach and coach extremely hard.”

That fumble by Church was the only turnover the Panthers committed. After the game Dameron said that even playing a clean game, but still losing, shows that have to play a full 60 minute game. Eastern has to do the little things right for the whole and even overtime, if it comes to that.

“However long it takes, we have to continue of not getting tired of doing what is right,” Dameron said. “That is to protect that ball, protect that ball, protect that ball.”

Despite losing the first two games of the season by a combined score of 74-5, and losing to last year’s national runner-up team in overtime, red-shirt senior Dino Fanti said that the loss will overshadow the improvement that the Panthers showed this week. As of now it’s a loss, and losing is not okay for Eastern.

“The whole team knows that it’s not okay,” Fanti said. “Tomorrow I’m sure we’ll see a lot of guys that did good things and improved from the week before. But right now it’s a loss and it hurts.”

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