Wickliffe’s interception leads Panthers to victory

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Facing a 3rd and 10 situation, Tennessee State quarterback Ronald Butler took the snap from center and fired the ball toward the end zone during the first overtime period.

Eastern red-shirt senior cornerback Jourdan Wickliffe read the ball and intercepted it to give Eastern its third consecutive victory, 25-22.

The Panthers move to 3-3 on the season, and 3-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play, following Wickliffe’s interception, and a 26-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Nick Bruno on their only possession of overtime. Both Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville also have 3-0 records in the OVC.

Red-shirt senior cornerback Dylan Chatman also picked off a pass at a very crucial time. The Tigers had the ball on the Panthers 9-yard line with seven seconds remaining in the first half, when Butler threw his first interception of the day. Chatman read the Tigers quarterback and intercepted the ball, to end the half with Eastern leading 14-10.

Chatman also broke up a pass earlier in the red zone on that drive. He finished with three tackles. His fellow teammate in the secondary, Wickliffe, also recorded two tackles.

Earlier on that drive, senior linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill was disqualified for targeting, and did not return in the second half. The Panthers defense proved to be stingy, holding the Tigers to 12 points and 48 total yards in the second half.

Grugier-Hill had four tackles before he had to leave the game. Red-shirt sophomore Nick Horne filled in for Grugier-Hill and recorded four tackles, including two for loss. Junior middle linebacker Seth McDonald led the defense with eight tackles.

Before the game there were questions about how much playing time red-shirt junior running back Devin Church would have. Church did not start the game, but led the Panthers rushing attack with 17 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Graduate student Jerron Seymour started for the Panthers.

The ground game totaled 181 yards, which included 37 yards from senior quarterback Jalen Whitlow.

Whitlow completed 12-of-27 passes for 120 yards and a 65-yard touchdown pass to red-shirt sophomore tight end Addison Bounds. That was Bounds only catch of the day, and his third touchdown in three games.

Whitlow also threw two interceptions, both of which were on the first possession of each half.

His counterpart, Butler, posted similar numbers, going 12-of-28 for 125 yards and a touchdown. He threw two interceptions as well. He was sacked three times by McDonald, Grugier-Hill and Horne.

Butler was active running the ball. He led the Tigers ground game with 104 yards on 18 carries, which included a 30-yard touchdown run to put Tennessee State on the board, and tie the game at 7-7. Wide receiver Patrick Smith caught three passes for 55 yards.

It was the first time that the Eastern offense failed to score at least 30 points, since a shutout loss at Northwestern last month.

The Panthers will return to Charleston Saturday for homecoming. They’ll host Tennessee Tech with a kickoff time of 1 p.m.


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