Football team knows what to expect against Arkansas


File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Eastern tight end Jonathan McCoy gets a hit laid on him in a practice last spring at O’Brien Field. Eastern opens up its season Saturday against Arkansas.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

The players and coaches of the Eastern football team are not being naïve or vanilla about the team’s upcoming game against Arkansas. 

Everyone in the program knows what they are walking into on Saturday; a game against an SEC school, in an SEC atmosphere with NFL-level talent all over the field. There has been no sugarcoating from the Panthers, they understand the challenge ahead and are ready to face it come Saturday. 

There is going to be a lot for fans of Eastern to keep in mind while watching the game on Saturday, no matter the outcome.

If Eastern shows up on Saturday and loses by a large margin, any overreaction or deep thoughts into why the team lost should be kept to a minimum. The bottom-line is, this will be the most talented team Eastern faces by a mile all season, and quite possibly the most talented team they will play for years into the future. 

The Razorbacks have all-conference players, in the nation’s top conference, on both sides of the ball. From a pure talent stand point, Eastern will be overmatched at most positions.

So, if the Panthers do get blown out, there is no reason to freak out or draw any wild conclusions about the Panthers from that game. 

If Eastern loses but keeps the game close, that could say a lot about the Panthers. Take all the same points made above about the talent on Arkansas’ roster and rehash them here. Only, in this scenario, if the Panthers and their new offense and quarterbacks can show they can play to the same level as an SEC school, that could mean good things lie in the near future for Eastern.

Eastern has a lot of talent of its own on the roster; if those players can rise to the occasion and play to a level that keeps an SEC school on its toes, who can say how that can translate to games against non-conference FCS schools like Indiana State and Illinois State and OVC opponents. 

If the team gets blown out of the water, there should not be much reaction, but if the team keeps it close in a loss, that loss would definitely deserve a deeper read.

If, and this is a big if, Eastern goes to Arkansas and wins, it would not only be probably the biggest college football storyline of week one, but it could also be the biggest upset win in school history.

In this scenario, Eastern has no room to make errors on the field. For any FCS team to beat an SEC school, near perfect execution has to happen on every down. 

Things like this have happened before: think back to Appalachian State’s big win over Michigan in 2007. Crazy things have happened before. 

For Eastern to pull off that type of upset, both quarterbacks, Harry Woodbery and Johnathan Brantley, will have to have career-best type games. All of Eastern’s all-conference players, wide receiver Alexander Hollins, running back Isaiah Johnson and cornerback Mark Williams will have to play not only to their all-conference status, but probably above that. 

Big games will have to come from linebacker Dytarious Johnson, the entire offensive and defensive line units and quite frankly, the entire team. 

It will tough to decide what to make of a potential Eastern win, obviously it would be a great thing for Eastern moving forward, but the win would be so big it would be difficult to decide if it was a total Arkansas collapse, an Eastern once-in-a-lifetime moment or a mix of both.

Win, blowout, close loss, it will be ultra-important to remember Arkansas is an SEC school, Eastern is OVC, two very different teams and schools. Neither school should judge themselves very much after this game.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]