Panthers fall to Western in season opener


Justin Brown

Eastern runningback Korliss Marshall breaks away from Western defenders in the first half Thursday at O’Brien Field. The Panthers lost 38-21.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble had not played a down in his Eastern career, and it showed at times in Thursday night’s 38-21 loss to Western. Kimble also looked like a veteran quarterback at times.

Kimble made his first career start and came out of the gate hot, sending the Panthers on a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended with him running the ball in for a 19-yard score. Something Eastern failed to do in 2015 against the Leathernecks.

Overall, Kimble showed signs of promise, his three turnovers led to the Panthers’ demise. On his first play of the second drive, he fumbled at the Panthers 19-yard line, leading to Western’s first of five touchdowns.

All three of the turnovers led to a Leathernecks score. Again, Kimble showed many signs of being a strong quarterback, but the turnovers hurt.

“Turnovers, that’s the big thing, that’s what killed us,” Kimble said. “They stopped our drives and I take a lot of blame for that because I didn’t put our defense in a good position.”

As the game went on, Kimble improved, but said there is no excuses to turn the ball over the way he did.

Earlier in the week, Coach Kim Dameron said he was planning on going with a two-quarterback look against Western, using both Kimble and redshirt junior Austin Green as well. Green only took one drive, which ended in a missed field goal by junior kicker Nick Bruno.

The plan was to use Green for the one series, and have Kimble be the guy the rest of the way, Dameron said.

“We knew offensively going in, especially with our lack of depth on the D-line, (turning the ball over) is something we knew we couldn’t do,” Dameron said.

Green saw some playing time last year, and was 4-for-5 on his only drive of the game this year.

Eastern handled the Leathernecks better overall than they did a year ago, but the result was all the same. They opened the season with a loss.

Despite what the scoreboard says, Eastern’s defense held their own even with the inexperience they have on the defensive line. They had their backs against the wall two out of the three times the Panthers turned the ball over.

Eastern fought its way back into the game to make the score 24-21 off a 79-yard pass from Kimble to redshirt junior running back Korliss Marshall at the 3:36 mark, after a 53-yard pass to senior Ben Odugbesan made it 24-14 with five minutes earlier.

It was two passes like those from Kimble that made it seem like he can still do big things for Eastern.

“Everyone on offense, we can be good if we just execute and do what we’ve been practicing all camp,” Kimble said. “What you saw in the third quarter, I think if we do that the entire game, I think we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Eastern’s attempt at a comeback was quickly foiled when Western marched down the field with a 6-yard touchdown run by Devon Moore capping off the drive.

Up until then the defense kept them in the game, but back-to-back scores put the Panthers away.

“I see the points, and I actually feel like we did a great job,” redshirt junior linebacker Nick Horne said. “But we still had times, where they get the ball on the 1-yard line, we need to stop them. We’d rather have 3 points than 7 points.”

Defensively there were a few new faces in this season opener, especially on the defensive line with two starters having to sit out, there is no lack of chemistry on that side of the ball, Horne said.

And just like on offense, the miscues made there, and the “missed assignments” as Horned called them, will hurt the team.

“Every time we had a missed assignment, we gave up a big play,” he said.

For the second straight year, the Panthers start 0-1 and will hit the road next Saturday to take on Miami of Ohio.

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