Panthers lose Kimble, game against Murray State


Bryan Bund

Redshirt senior Shawn Mitchell Jr. scores the games first touchdown Saturday on a 28-yard pass from quarterback Mitch Kimble. Mitchell had two receptions for 49 yards in the 40-38 loss to Murray State.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Saturday’s game was a game Eastern needed to win and should have won, but from losing its starting quarterback in the first half and turning the ball over six times, a win was almost impossible.

Somehow Eastern was able to stay in the game despite turning the ball over to Murray State six times, which turned into 20 points for the Racers and a 40-38 loss for Eastern.

Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble came out strong in the part of the first half he played before getting injured. He was 16-19 with 200 passing yards and two touchdowns. He had fumble, but no interceptions.

Kimble injured his right forearm, his throwing arm, on the fumble with 4:04 left in the first half. Kimble came out on the sideline for the second half, but had a large wrap on his arm and never came back into the game. From then on, everything fell apart for Eastern.

Redshirt junior quarterback Austin Green replaced Kimble and he struggled to get the offense moving and was replaced by redshirt sophomore Bud Martin, who also struggled, throwing two interceptions. One of Martin’s interceptions came in the end zone.

Martin tried to connect with redshirt freshman wide receiver James Sheehan, missing redshirt senior Anthony Taylor who was wide open near the sideline.

“There’s a reason Mitch is our starting quarterback,” Coach Kim Dameron said. “If there wasn’t a reason, he wouldn’t be the starter. But he is and there’s a reason for that.”

The Panthers came out of the first half with a 21-16 lead after jumping out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter, but nine of the points Murray State scored in the first half came off the foot of kicker Connor Mitchell who was 6-6 in the game and scored 20 points.

His six field goals were enough to set a Murray State record, most by an FCS kicker this year, and one off the OVC all-time record.

Mitchell’s kicks definitely made a difference, but redshirt running back Devin Church said the turnovers are what ruined the Panthers.

“We shot ourselves in the foot (Saturday),” Church said. “Six turnovers, anybody who’s got six turnovers in a game, your chances of winning are slim and that was our downfall (Saturday).”

Church, who has been the poster boy of keeping the ball off the ground, fumbled the ball leading to a Murray State score.

Church rushed for 155 yards and scored two touchdowns and also caught four passes including a 51-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.

Even with all of Church’s contributions to Eastern’s 224 rushing yards, it still was not enough.

Two weeks ago Eastern had a fast start and jumped out to a big lead early, and still pulled out a win and the same thing happened this time, but Eastern let off the gas and the result was not in its favor because of that.

“Every time we get up I feel like we almost become relaxed,” Church said. “I feel as if we become kind of conservative instead of keeping our foot on the gas and running up the scoreboard. It’s definitely something we need to do. Just keep telling ourselves, ‘hey, we aren’t up by much, lets just keep it going.”

The fast start is something the Panthers talked about all week and how they needed a good start early, which they did but “self inflicted wounds” continue to hurt the Panthers.

Dameron said he has never been apart of an offense that turned the ball over six times.

“We just quit doing anything offensively,” Dameron said. “We quit running it, we quit throwing it, we made turnovers, we didn’t score another point for another quarter and a half. It blows my mind, the inconsistency and the lack of execution. We look like Jekyll and Hyde.”

And now with a hill to climb, Eastern will take on the top team in the OVC, but Church thinks that the team that beat Miami of Ohio and Illinois State will be the one to take the field.

“I feel like we play better against the good teams,” Church said. “Against mediocre teams, we play mediocre. Against the good teams, we play good, we play how we’re supposed to.”

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