Panthers’ playoff hopes dwindle after loss


Eastern quarterback Bud Martin throws a pass in a game against Jacksonville State on Oct. 21 at O’Brien Field. Martin threw three interceptions in the Panthers most recent loss to Tennessee- Martin on Saturday.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Coach Kim Dameron said last week that if the Panthers won their remaining three games, they would make the playoffs.

Following a 27-10 loss to Tennessee-Martin Saturday, the Eastern football team’s playoff hopes are dwindling.

Eight wins would more than likely get the Panthers into the playoffs, but now the most they can get is seven, which makes a playoff berth unlikely.

Turnovers hurt the Panthers more than anything as they turned the ball over five times Saturday.

Eastern forced Tennessee-Martin to turn the ball over on the first play of the game. Eastern could only muster a field goal on that drive and Tennessee-Martin scored 17 unanswered points.

Freshman kicker Matt Severino connected on 32-yard field goal.

One Eastern turnover went for a touchdown in Tennessee-Martin’s favor. Redshirt freshman quarterback Scotty Gilkey Jr. fumbled as he was sacked and Anthony Brown picked it up and went 17 yards for the score.

The Panthers turned the ball over three times in the first half.

Neither team’s run game was existent Saturday, as both Eastern and the Skyhawks had less than 100 total yards. Eastern rushed for 75 yards and Tennesee-Martin ran for 80 yards.

This was the second week in a row that Eastern could not get a run game going. Last week it rushed for 28 yards against Jacksonville State.

Without the flurry of turnovers, Eastern, statwise, looked like it could have been the winning team Saturday.

Eastern passed for 200 yards with a combination of Gilkey and redshirt junior Bud Martin and Tennessee-Marting passed for 112. Three interceptions from Martin and one from Gilkey made the biggest impact though.

While Eastern threw for more yards, Tennesseee-Martin made the most of its completions. The Skyhawks scored both of their offensive touchdowns via the pass.

Quarterback Troy Cook hit Donnell Williams with a 1-yard score after a Panther turnover, then hit Jaylon Moore with a 28-yard pass to extend the lead to 24-10.

The Skyhawks got six points from their kicker Mitch Mersman, who hit a 35-yard field goal and a 23-yard field goal.

Junior wide receiver Alexander Hollins had eight receptions for 114 yards, which was his third 100-yard receiving game this season.

Martin and Hollins haved developed a strong connection over the past couple games with Martin as the team’s starting quarterback.

The Panthers won their first four OVC games, with all four coming down to the last play. Whether it was luck, or Eastern just being able to outlast its opponent, both of those were lost in the last two OVC games for Eastern.

Last week, Eastern played a strong first half against Jacksonville State, which has now won 29 OVC games in a row, and then this past Saturday, nothing went right for Eastern.

The Panthers have two games left in the regular season. Eastern hosts Eastern Kentucky Saturday, a bye the following week, and finish the season off with a tough Austin Peay team.

Eastern missed the playoffs last year and it could be seeing much of the same this year.

Sean Hastings can be reached at  

581-2812 or  [email protected].