Murray State could ruin the Panthers season Saturday and that would not settle well with the team or with Eastern football fans.
Eastern is 3-1 in Ohio Valley Conference contests, in second place just behind back-to-back champion Jacksonville State. Murray State has just one win this season coming against 0-6 Austin Peay.
Five teams in the OVC have one or less losses and with the standings so tight, one more loss could make it tough for a team to get in; such as Eastern.
Eastern will see Jacksonville State next week, but if Eastern overlooks the Murray State Racers, they will lose and the game against Jacksonville State will be Eastern’s final chance to keep fighting for the OVC title.
The thing is, Eastern has not even shown its full potential. One part of the game where the Panthers struggled has stood out in each game; they could be better in every aspect.
Redshirt junior running back Devin Church leads all OVC running backs in rushing yards this season with 614 yards on 121 attempts in seven games.
It took some time to get the running game going for the Panthers, and now it has become one of the biggest forces Eastern brings into a game. The Panthers, as a team, have had back-to-back 200 + rushing-yard games.
Overall, Eastern’s offense has had no problem putting up yards against its opponents. The Panthers put up over 600 yards of total offense against Austin Peay.
Even though Austin Peay is the worst team in the OVC, it was able to score 35 points on the Eastern defense.
And what was relevant that game, has been relevant a few other times this season: Eastern has allowed a few big plays in each game, and it has almost cost them, and it did cost them against Southeast Missouri, the Panthers’ only OVC loss.
It’s gotten to the point where a big play could ruin Eastern’s season, and don’t be surprised if Murray State is the one to do it. With the way Eastern’s defense held up at the end of last weekend’s game at Tennessee Tech, the Panthers should be fine, but that is no reason to get too confident.
In Murray State’s loss to Tennessee-Martin last week, the Racers used a 65-yard run by Mareio McGraw to get them back into the game. The Racer’s kicker can also send the ball quite a way, hitting a 50-yard field goal to give Murray State a late lead.
The lead did not last long as Murray State’s defense fell flat on Tennessee-Martin’s following drive.
Greg McKillon caught Troy Cook’s pass for a 75-yard hook up for a touchdown and essentially knock off the Racers.
Tennessee-Martin improved to 3-1 with the win, keeping them at the top of the conference.
The Racers may be struggling this season, but one play put them away in the fourth quarter last week.
Coach Kim Dameron said Murray State is a tough team and before the Panthers can even begin thinking about Jacksonville State in two weeks, they have to handle Murray State.
Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]