Panthers to face Tennessee Tech in OVC gauntlet

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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Redshirt-senior running back Shepard Little runs the ball up the field during the Panthers' 33-28 Family Weekend win on Oct. 10 at O'Brien Field. Church ran for 75 yards completing one touchdown during the game.

Jason Howell
Redshirt-senior running back Shepard Little runs the ball up the field during the Panthers’ 33-28 Family Weekend win on Oct. 10 at O’Brien Field. Church ran for 75 yards completing one touchdown during the game.

With a record of 3-0, there is no doubt that the Eastern football team is off to a good start in Ohio Valley Conference play. The same cannot be said for this Saturday’s opponent, Tennessee Tech, which has lost its last three games, to what coach Kim Dameron called the Ohio Valley Conference’s gauntlet.

The scoreboard and record does not reflect how dangerous of team the Golden Eagles are, Dameron said.

“They might not have fared well, but they’re a football team that has a lot of fight in them,” Dameron said. “I see a team in Tennessee Tech that has, especially if they get Jared Davis back, a dangerous offense.”

Davis, a junior quarterback, started the first four games of the season, completing over 60 percent of his passes and averaging 260 yards per game. He also threw six touchdown passes during that time span.

Davis suffered a broken hand in the 31-17 loss to Tennessee Martin, and he has not played since. Sophomore quarterback Colby Brown has started the last two games, averaging 173.5 yards per game and throwing one touchdown.

Even though Brown has started only two games, Dameron said that he expects him to improve from his last performance.

“With Jared (Davis) that gives them kind of a shot in the arm. Even if Colby Brown will be playing, I look for him to be better the next game,” Dameron said.

Davis’s status for Saturday is still unknown, but he has practiced with the Golden Eagles this week. The Eastern secondary, which has broken up seven passes and intercepted three in the last two games, would also have to account for Davis’s running ability, if he were to start on Saturday.

“We’ve got to be able to control a quarterback that can run around a little bit, which is something we didn’t do very well last week,” Dameron said. “We’d better do better because as the season progresses, we’re going to see more of those quarterbacks.”

On the other sideline, Tennessee Tech head coach Watson Brown said that defending a multi-threat quarterback like Eastern’s Jalen Whitlow brings its own challenges.

“Whitlow is a special kid,” Brown said. “I’ve always said in my years of coaching, the hardest thing to stop is a good running, throwing quarterback.”

Eastern has held four offenses under 200 yards this year, including limiting Austin Peay to 49 yards two weeks ago. The Panthers have the eighth-best passing defense in the nation allowing 154.7 yards per game. Defensive backs Bradley Dewberry and Vince Speller lead the secondary with 36 and 34 tackles, respectively.

Even without Davis, Dameron thinks the Golden Eagles have the most explosive player in the OVC, in senior running back Ladarius Vanlier.

“He ran through our entire defense on one play last year,” Dameron said. “Made six people miss on one play.”

Even though this is the 100th Homecoming celebration in Eastern history, it will be the 98th homecoming game. The Panthers did not field a team in both 1918 and 1943 because of World War I and II.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at O’Brien Field.

 

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