Panthers traveling to take on No. 2 Jacksonville State


Bryan Bund

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Bud Martin runs the ball during the Panthers’ 40-38 Homecoming loss Saturday to Murray State at O’Brien Field.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Jacksonville State likes to, will and is good at running the ball, especially with its quarterback Eli Jenkins leading the way
Coach Kim Dameron called Jenkins the best quarterback in the country. He is second in rushing yards in the Ohio Valley Conference, just behind Eastern’s redshirt running back Devin Church.
But Jenkins has proved he can be a huge force in the game, and Eastern needs to find a way to be able to contain Jenkins and the run game, Dameron said.
“Eli Jenkins has proven over and over and over again that he does what it takes to win football games,” Dameron said. “He’s explosive in the run game, but he can throw it and he takes care of the football. The challenge is daunting with their offense.”
Even though Jacksonville State may have a threatening run game, where it can use Jenkins at anytime, and still utilize running backs to get yards and wins, Eastern cannot change up the way they approach it, senior linebacker Seth McDonald said.
And for Eastern to have a chance on defense, the offense cannot turn the ball over and put the Panthers in bad situations, and Church said they are up to the task.
“We’re all confident; everybody’s pretty (pumped) up to go down to Alabama to beat the No. 2 team in the country,” Church said. “Overall, everybody is excited to get this win.”
The Gamecocks are 6-1 overall and have a perfect 3-0 record in OVC play following a 24-7 win over Eastern Kentucky.
After Eastern’s loss pushed it back to No. 22 in the FCS, the Panthers are barely hanging on to a top 25 spot, and a win would really help Eastern get into the playoffs.
Church said he knows he needs to keep doing what he has been, and keep putting up points on the scoreboard to match and out-do what the Gamecocks do.
But the key thing for Jacksonville State is since its run game is so potent, they can throw the ball at any time as well, so McDonald said the Panthers will have to stay sound.
“Me, as a linebacker, I play run first every play, so we’re just going to attack the run,” McDonald said. “We have a good thing going into this week, a good system and we just have to stick to the plan and we’ll be all right.”
There are players on the Panthers defense that look for run first like McDonald, and some that look for pass first and if they do what they are supposed to do pre-snap, and make the adjustments when necessary, the Panthers will be able to stop this Gamecock rushing attack that has ran all over teams this season.
“If we can stop the run and make them pass it, we should be pretty good,” McDonald said.
Eastern adjusts things week to week for each team, but for the most part, will treat Jacksonville no differently.
The Panthers will have to get all of this done on the road at Jacksonville State’s stadium in front of a large crowd. It is Jacksonville State’s Homecoming Game and Family Weekend game.
A win will certainly help the Panthers in the FCS standings, and with two more OVC contests after this week, it is crunch time for the Eastern football team.

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