Panthers hang on to win 2nd-straight game


Justin Brown

Junior kicker Nick Bruno kicks a field goal against Illinois State at Hancock Stadium Sept. 17. Bruno was 3-4 on field goals Saturday vs. Tennessee Tech.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Eastern did not get off to the best of starts against Tennessee Tech, but mistakes by the Golden Eagles at the end of the first half allowed the Panthers to get back into the game.

Eastern came out on top 30-24 for its second-straight Ohio Valley Conference win. The Panthers improved to 3-1 in OVC play.

Redshirt senior running back Devin Church moved the Panthers down the field with a combination of pass receptions and rushing plays totaling 43 yards. A key pass interference play on Brandon Thomas of Tennessee Tech set up a 15-yard strike from redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble to junior wide receiver Dennis Turner.

Before the touchdown, Eastern trailed 17-3, and the score made it 17-10 with 19 seconds left in the half, and Tennessee Tech would receive the kickoff to start the second half.

The crucial mistake by Tennessee Tech came on the ensuing kickoff after the touchdown. Junior kicker Nick Bruno squibbed a kick down the field in attempt to avoid the possibility of a kick return by Tennessee Tech.

Not only did the Panthers avoid a big return, but Aderick Moore, of Tennessee Tech, miss-handled the ball and redshirt junior Vince Speller jumped on the ball and recovered with 19 seconds left at Tennessee Tech’s 28-yard line.

After a 9-yard run by Kimble and a 7-yard completion to redshirt senior Isaiah Nelson, Bruno connected on a 29-yard field goal to cut the lead to 17-13 as time expired in the first half.

When it came down to it, Bruno’s three made field goals turned out to be a difference in the game. Bruno was good on 3 out of 4 field goal attempts.

Bruno made field goals from 28 and 23 yards, but missed a 27-yard attempt.

Coach Kim Dameron said Eastern was able to execute on one more play than Tennessee State last week and that seemed to be the case this week against Tennessee Tech.

Eastern picked up where it left off in the third quarter and scored twice to secure a 27-17 lead. Eastern scored 24 unanswered points after trailing 17-3.

Eastern has been prone to giving up huge plays on defense, but the offense turned the tables on Tennessee Tech when Kimble connected with sophomore wide receiver Paul Gossage for a 65-yard touchdown.

One other positive trend continued this week for the Panthers: the run game.

Before Eastern took on Illinois State in its third game of season, the Eastern rushing attack had yet to score a touchdown, and Church broke off a 30-yard touchdown run in that game.

Now four games later, Eastern’s rushing game continues to be strong. Church rushed for 139 yards in the game against Tennessee Tech to help Eastern to its second-straight 200-yard game.

Church did not score a touchdown, but the yards he put up on the ground, set up Eastern scores. He also had 54 receiving yards.

Eastern did a god job of standing strong in the final minutes of the game on defense and Bruno hitting arguably the most important field goal of the game, giving Eastern a 6-point lead, meaning Tennessee Tech needed a touchdown to stay alive with 2:19 left.

Eastern will return to O’Brien Field Saturday for its Homecoming Game to take on Murray State.

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