Column: The time is now for Eastern football to put everything together

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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With one loss in the OVC column for the Panthers, now is the time where the offense and the defense come together and both must play a sound game. Through the first five games, it seems one has been on and picking up the other.

Eastern has shown a potent offense that can move the ball down the field and get the ball in the end zone and blow past defenders. The defense has shown signs of being a wall opponents are unable to knock down.

The Panthers scored 56 points behind redshirt junior quarterback Austin Green, on a day he made his first career start. Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble will return this Saturday to man the Panther offense after suffering an injury late in the game against Illinois State.

But when the defense has fallen flat, it has put extra pressure on the offense to keep coming out to score. That was the case against Austin Peay as every time but one the Eastern offense put the ball in the end zone, the Governors answered with a touchdown of their own.

The same thing happened Saturday at Southeast Missouri State.

It’s gotten to the point where the Eastern defense has to hold up for four quarters and Eastern’s offense has to match it. It’s going to have to happen this week against Tennessee State.

Tennessee State scored 34 points last week and they are able to put points up from just inside the 50-yard line. Tennessee State’s kicker Lane Clark was good from 54 and 57 yards Saturday against Tennessee-Martin. He scored 10 points to aid the Tigers to a win.

That means if Tennessee State can get the ball to the Eastern 40-yard line, that is scoring range for the Tigers and Clark. His 57-yard field goal is the longest in all levels of the NCAA this season.

There is no room for error right now for the Panthers having one loss in the OVC, it’s a game that redshirt senior defensive lineman Jarvis Williams said the Panthers should have won.

Jacksonville State went undefeated in the OVC last year and won the conference title, and they will have their first in-conference game this weekend.

Eastern returns home to face Tennessee State, and the Panthers cannot afford another let down on offense or on defense.

The Panthers almost did enough to get by SEMO, but they gave up two huge plays that allowed SEMO 14 points, which proved to be the demise of Eastern Saturday.

When Eastern takes the field Saturday, they will have Kimble back at the helm and Green back to being the backup. In his time as the starter, he went 1-1 and proved that he is capable of being a starting quarterback at the Division I level, which will help the Panthers in the long run.

Anything can happen at any time, and to have a quarterback like Green ready in your back pocket, can be key.

There is no time to waste for Eastern, the time to get going has passed and it is even more important now at 1-1 in the OVC.

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