Panthers taking on much improved Tennessee Tech team

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Panthers taking on much improved Tennessee Tech team

Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble carries a Tennessee State defender with him into the endzone Saturday at O'Brien Field. The touchdown put the Panthers up 6-0 early in the first quarter.

Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble carries a Tennessee State defender with him into the endzone Saturday at O'Brien Field. The touchdown put the Panthers up 6-0 early in the first quarter.

Bryan Bund

Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble carries a Tennessee State defender with him into the endzone Saturday at O'Brien Field. The touchdown put the Panthers up 6-0 early in the first quarter.

Bryan Bund

Bryan Bund

Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble carries a Tennessee State defender with him into the endzone Saturday at O'Brien Field. The touchdown put the Panthers up 6-0 early in the first quarter.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Panthers game last week against Tennessee State was a must win, and nothing has changed for this week’s matchup with Tennessee Tech.

Eastern’s defense and offense stepped up when it needed to just sneak by the Tigers with a 35-34 win at home Saturday night.

The Panthers were lucky to get starting quarterback Mitch Kimble back to run their offense. Redshirt senior Devin Church said Kimble is a dual-threat being able to run and throw the ball.

Eastern ran the ball for 221 rushing yards in the game.

Having Kimble back allowed Eastern to utilize the option more frequently.

Kimble made a quick impact in his return rushing for a touchdown 1:30 in the first quarter.

He also threw two touchdown passes in the game; both to Church on swing passes, but he also threw two interceptions.

Coach Dameron was happy to get his starting quarterback back on the field, but just like everything else on the team, they need to be cleaned up a bit.

Eastern’s biggest fault in the game was three long plays allowed by the defense that led to scores for the Tigers.

With the win, Eastern moved up to No. 17 in the FCS polls.

“It was a heck of a football game,” Dameron said. “It was a fun one to be a part of and now we’ve got to put that one in the rearview mirror and get ready for a Tennessee Tech team that I think is much improved.”

It is kind of hard to judge the talent the Golden Eagles have based off last weeks’ result. Tennessee Tech played the top team in the Ohio Valley Conference, Jacksonville State, and was blown out.

The Golden Eagles are 2-2 in OVC play.

The Golden Eagles trailed 33-7 at the end of the first half before scoring a touchdown in each of the third and fourth quarters to make the final (40-21) score look a bit more respectable.

Turnovers were the story for the lack of offense for Tennessee Tech in the loss to the Gamecocks. Quarterback Michael Birdsong finished 19-32 passing for 167 yards along with three interceptions.

And the run game was not much better for Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles leading rusher was Yeedee Thaenrat for a total of 52 yards The Golden Eagles rushed for just 62 yards.

Even though Tennessee Tech had a tough showing last week, Dameron sees the talent it brings to the table.

“(Birdsong) has some targets to throw it to in (Kip) Patton and (Dontez) Byrd and some other guys,” Dameron said. “They’ve got five receivers that have double-digit catches. It’s not like they’re just going to one guy, but they do obviously have ‘their guys.’”

“Every team in this league has some players that can play, and they can give you some problems,” Dameron said. “You have to go in and just do the best you can do and make sure you try to make one more play than they do.”

Eastern and Tennessee Tech will kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday in Cookeville, Tenn.

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