Cape Girardeau, Mo — A heartbreaking loss for No. 13 ranked Eastern followed a familiar trend that has been plaguing the Panthers since the start of the season.
Maintaining focus has hurt the Panthers in some form each week, since week one, when the Panthers struck first against Western before allowing 24 unanswered points. In a week three game against Illinois State, the Panthers allowed Illinois State to creep back into a 24-7 game before narrowly escaping defeat in the 24-21 win.
The Panther defense has also allowed opposing teams to jump out to early leads, forcing the offense to fight an uphill battle. In most cases, the offense has proven to be up to the challenge. Falling behind early to Miami of Ohio 10-0 in a game where the Panthers never led until the final drive of the game, capping a 51-yard drive off with a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead and win.
Up 21-7 last week against Austin Peay, the defense allowed the visiting Governors to tie the game at 21 before the Austin Green led offense ran away with a 56-35 win.
Every Austin Peay touchdown, except one, was scored on a drive immediately following an Eastern touchdown.
The defense has also allowed big plays to hurt the team efforts. Saturday against Southeast Missouri was no different. The Panther defense was caught sleeping for two SEMO touchdown passes (45 and 62 yards) that ended up being too much to overcome.
SEMO’s game-winning touchdown followed an Eastern defensive touchdown that tied the game at 14 and had the potential to be a key turning point, redshirt senior safety Pono Choy said.
Eastern’s offense uncharacteristically struggled in Saturday’s defeat. Despite out-rushing SEMO in total yards, coach Kim Dameron expected more out of his offense.
The loss at SEMO will may knock the Panthers back in the FCS rankings, and Dameron said the team will have to take a look at itself as a whole before pointing fingers.
Dameron said the loss was a team loss, and the team had no one area to point the finger.
“Before you start looking at anybody else, make sure you look at yourself first,” Dameron said. “Make sure you can correct the errors that you made before you ever even think about correcting somebody else.”
Justin Brown can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]