Panthers’ poor start leads to blow out by Gamecocks

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Three plays into the game Saturday, the Panthers allowed two sacks with one resulting in a fumble where Jacksonville State took over at the Panthers’ 6-yard line.

That was just the start of the tough day the Eastern football team had as it dropped its second-straight game, losing 47-14 to the Gamecocks.

From the first snap of the game, Eastern was never in it and the forced fumbled on the sack of redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Kimble just added salt to the wound.

The Panthers came out of the first quarter trailing 21-0 and the first half 31-7, and the Eastern offense could not get the ball moving up the field. Eastern could only earn 231 yards.

In the past two games, Eastern’s running game was able to rush for over 200 yards alone. The run game only picked up 56 yards on the ground.

The loss will most likely knock the Panthers out of the top 25 in the FCS.

Coming into the game, coach Kim Dameron said to win the game, the Panthers would need to stop the Gamecocks’ run game, and the Eastern defense was not close to doing that.

The Gamecocks rushed for 312 yards on the Panther defense. The biggest concern for Eastern’s defense was finding a way to stop quarterback Eli Jenkins, who Dameron called the best quarterback in the country.

Yard-wise, the Panthers were able to do that. Jenkins rushed for 85 yards but scored one touchdown. He also threw two touchdowns passes contributing to his 157 passing yards in the game.

The Gamecocks’ leading rusher was Roc Thomas with 115 yards, but the key factor was having seven players involved in the rushing game.

Eastern’s two touchdowns came from redshirt running back Devin Church and redshirt junior running back Korliss Marshall. Marshall had a 4-yard run to make it 21-7, and Church caught a pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Jared Pilson for a 30-yard touchdown.

At that point, Eastern already trailed by 33 points, so the touchdown with 14:52 left in the game did not help the Panthers out.

Eastern will take on Tennessee-Martin Saturday before heading into its bye week and ending the season on the road at Eastern Kentucky. The games will pretty much be must-win games, but even then, it will be tough to get back to the playoffs.

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