Panther offense explodes in OVC win


Bryan Bund

Austin Green fires a pass to Devin Church Saturday at O'Brien Field against Austin Peay. Green was 24-30 with two touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

It took Austin Green four years to get his first career start at quarterback; that start came in the Panthers’ first Ohio Valley Conference matchup, and he made the most of it.

The redshirt junior quarterback got his first career start as a Panther after redshirt junior Mitch Kimble was sidelined because of an injury.

Green has been waiting his whole life to get this opportunity, and it came in the Panthers’ 56-35 win over Austin Peay Saturday.

“I’ve been waiting a while to get this shot,” Green said. “I prepare every week like I’m going to be the starter. Everyone in the quarterback room, we’re all great friends and we prepare like we’re the starter. But in the end, it just matters about the team getting the ‘W.’”

Besides one interception Green threw, he was almost perfect with the way he played. He had just six incomplete passes, completing 24 of his 30 attempts for 263 yards.

Coach Kim Dameron always has two quarterbacks ready to go each game, and through the first three games, the only playing time Green saw was about one drive each game in the second quarter.

Even though he has not made a start at Eastern, Dameron had all the trust in the world that Green would be able to get the job done.

“I don’t really care who’s in there, whether it’s Austin, Mitch, Bud (Martin),” Dameron said. “There’s different things those kids can do when they’re in the game… I was totally comfortable going into this game with Austin as our quarterback.”

Dameron was really proud of what Green did in his first start. He said Green’s stat of 24-30 is “hard versus air.”

Green led the Panthers’ offense to 641 total yards, which in the end is what the Panthers needed to get the win because the usual strong defense for Eastern fell apart.

Eastern had just a 35-28 lead in the fourth quarter with 12:02 left, and the Eastern defense came up big. Redshirt junior Nick Horne intercepted Timarious Mitchell’s pass to give Eastern the ball and change the course of the game.

Green gave the Panthers 21 points off two touchdown passes and an 8-yard touchdown run.

Another big story to come out of Saturday’s game was Eastern’s running game. The Panthers struggled to get a consistent run game going in the first three games, lacking a 100-yard rusher.

Redshirt running back Devin Church showed a sign of the run game coming to life against Illinois State a week before Austin Peay, breaking off a 30-yard touchdown run.

Church said prior to that game that one run could turn the season around for the entire running game. He may have just been right.

The Panthers not only had one player rush for over 100 yards, but both Church and redshirt junior Christopher Anderson both surpassed the 100-yard mark.

Church led the way with 139 rushing yards, but Anderson was right behind him with 129. This was Anderson’s first crack at Eastern football.

Coming into the season, Dameron and the coaching staff was unsure if Anderson would fit into the offense, and Anderson was not sure if he would redshirt. Dameron found his answer: He will be a part of the Panther offense the rest of the season, he said.

Anderson credited the offensive line for his break-through performance and said staying patient and waiting for his turn was what made the difference.

“Today I just let it all out,” he said.

Anderson missed the first three games because of a combination of his transcripts not coming in, missing fall camp and coming back from a meniscus injury.

Being younger than Church and redshirt junior Korliss Marshall, Anderson has been looking up to them.
“I’m just learning from them and I’m on ‘go-mode,’” Anderson said. “If one of them goes down, I’m going to come in and handle what I’ve got to handle. We’re like a family in there.”

The back’s communication during the game against Austin Peay was key in him and Church racking up the yards they did. He said they were constantly communicating things they were seeing when they were in.

The Panthers improved to 3-1 overall and start OVC play 1-0.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2182 or [email protected]