Column: Football suffers a loss it could not afford

Maher Kawash, Football Reporter

The stage was ultimately set for the Eastern football team heading into this past weekend.

It was homecoming week and a 1-5 Murray State team was coming to town for what was supposed to be one of Eastern’s easier games this season.

But the 40-38 losing outcome provided anything but.

In fact, it was possibly the worst-case scenario for a Panther team that had high expectations to succeed as the No. 15 ranked FCS team in the nation.

After knocking off some good teams earlier in the season, Eastern now has two losses on its resume that might have a negative impact on any postseason seeding fate.

With the potential of the team at hand and evident throughout the first half of the season, the expectation was for Eastern to fight it out with Jacksonville State for the top spot in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Well now, that has taken a tough turn for the Panthers.

The Gamecocks continue to roll atop the OVC with an unblemished conference record, and Eastern on the other hand has lost to then one-win team.

Now, it is completely understandable that any team can win on any day in college football, but the Panthers could not afford to actually let that happen.

Eastern could barely afford the loss to Southeast Missouri State a few weeks ago.

To put some salt on the wound, the Panthers have that coveted matchup with Jacksonville State coming up this week.

With the matchup against the Gamecocks looming, Eastern is in a tough situation.

As history suggests, Jacksonville State is the favorite down the stretch to top Eastern and everyone else in the conference.

For the Panthers, this matchup comes at a time when the defense seems to be falling apart, and starting quarterback Mitch Kimble cannot stay healthy.

On the other hand, Eastern could also only use this as motivation.

There is no doubt that an upset win over Jacksonville State on the road Saturday night would erase any loss from the Panthers’ minds immediately.

Rather than continuing to struggle and falling deeper in the standings as the fourth place team, Eastern can turn things around against the Gamecocks.

With a 5-3 record overall and a 3-2 record in the OVC, the odds are against the Panthers who are now on the outside looking in now.

They sure will not have much time to sulk about that though as it does not get much easier after Jacksonville State.

The Panthers finish out the season with games against second place Tennessee-Martin before the regular season finale against Eastern Kentucky.

It is now or never for Eastern, and after the loss to Murray State time might just be running out on the Panthers 2016 campaign.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]