At times last season, the Eastern football team seemed like one of the best across the entire Ohio Valley Conference.
But when all was said and done, the Panthers had little to show for it, and one reason why is because little mistakes turned into major losses.
For example, near the end of the season the Panthers were fighting for their postseason chances against Tennessee-Martin, until a late-game penalty changed the outcome.
A little mistake on the defensive side of the ball allowed the opponent to advance for a first down and essentially seal the Panthers’ fate.
Good news is Eastern has a fresh slate, fresh faces and a fresh opportunity to build off last season.
To build on that, it is clear the team is focused on their opponent for the week in Indiana State, with little regard to what happened anytime before this campaign.
Despite losing their past two season openers, Eastern linebacker Nick Horne said it does not mean a thing.
“If we lost the past five or ten years it doesn’t matter because this is a new year and we’re just taking it one step at a time,” Horne said.
That is taken a step further when considering the depth on both sides of the ball and how the trend of avoiding little mistakes continues on offense.
The revolving door at quarterback because of Mitch Kimble’s injury issues played a major role in that.
The Panthers’ inconsistency at the position led to some costly turnovers. What also needs to be considered is how that affected the offensive line.
The lineman had to adjust to a couple different styles of play, which led to some little but hurtful false start penalties.
What hurts the most about little mistakes is it seems like they come at the most inopportune times such as late in the game in losses.
What helps the Panthers with being able to avoid things like that this year is all the returning starters and experience.
As long as the injury bug stays away, Eastern has large amounts of potential to continue the success they found at times a year ago.
The defense finished top five a year ago and did not lose many starters, so key cogs like Horne will go a long way in shoring up any loose ends on that side of the ball.
“We come into every game wanting to win and this one is going to be a great one,” Horne said. “Indiana State is a great program and we have a lot of respect for them, but I think it’ll be a defensive game that we’re ready for.”
Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]