Panthers face tall order with Humphries, Racers


File Photo

Former linebacker Kamu Grugier- Hill covers a Tennessee Tech receiver Oct. 24, 2015. Grugier-Hill plays for the Philadelphia Eagles now.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern football team has continued its theme of being 1-0 every week this month, but they’ll need to continue that trend at Murray State on Saturday if they hope to list a perfect 5-0 in October and remaining in the Ohio Valley Conference title hunt.

The 4-3 overall Panthers will face a Murray State team that is 2-5 overall and 1-3 in OVC action.

Murray State’s passing offense, led by red-shirt junior KD Humphries, has averaged 372.8 yards per game this season, which is first in the OVC. Humphries is also the best quarterback in the nation in terms of completions, averaging 34 completions per game.

Eastern coach Kim Dameron said that defending Humphries and his talented group of backs and receivers will be a tall order. To counter their offense, Eastern will have to make sure it keeps its offense on the field.

“We can’t go three-and-out and turn the ball over,” Dameron said. “We’ve got to move the ball every possession and get first downs.”

To do that Eastern will have to rely on dual-threat quarterback Jalen Whitlow, who is among the conference’s best in passing yards per game. Another thing he has in common with Humphries is that they are both grew up together in Montgomery, Al. Whitlow said earlier this week the two played each other in Madden.

“I’ve texted and called him recently, but we’ve played Madden (online) too,” Whitlow said.

When asked what was the results of their virtual football meeting, Whitlow humbly said that he was victorious, a feat that’s been common for Whitlow for a long time.

Both Dameron and Murray State coach Mitch Stewart said that the ability that both quarterbacks have at running the football puts pressure on defenses, especially if they get outside the pocket. Both coaches also agreed that it is important to stop the run game first, in order to force the offense to be one-dimensional all game.

You can’t just spread your defense, you better stop the run too,” Dameron said. “When he’s (Humphries) in command he looks like he’s in command of, not only his offense, but your defense.”

Stewart believes that most teams play 10 players on offense, which means you don’t have to account for the quarterback running the football. But with the way Whitlow and the Panthers run their offense, they’re using all 11 men.

“Whitlow presents a ton of problems,” Stewart said. “To me you’ve got to kill the run game and make explosive plays on defense.”

Whitlow is second on the team in rushing behind red-shirt junior running back Devin Church, who has run for over 500 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Whitlow has rushed for 262 yards and a touchdown behind a Panthers offensive line that has not been credited with a sack in the last few weeks.

“Keeping the sack number down is definitely something we pride ourselves on,” red-shirt junior right tackle Evan Kanz said. “We’ve definitely improved at opening holes for the running game, and our backs are making some really good cuts.”

A 5-0 OVC record heading into the last month of the season would put Eastern in prime positon for the title chase. Also with the two other unbeaten teams, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State, playing each other this week, the Panthers will be one of two unbeaten teams in conference play.

“The theme this week is to be 1-0 at the end of the week, and not look up at who it is, or wherever it is,” Dameron said. “Be the best us we can be.”

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Stewart Stadium in Murray, Ky.


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