Column: Eastern football team too talented to play as they did on Saturday


Bryan Bund

Eastern quarterback Johnathan Brantley escapes a would be tackler in Eastern’s 48-10 loss to Illinois State Saturday. Brantley was 9 of 15 passing with 52 yards in loss.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

To give the Eastern football team’s 48-10 loss to Illinois State the perfect summation, only one word is required: ugly.

No matter how you dice the game up for Eastern, offensively, defensively, special teams, the game was downright heinous to watch. Last season the team was beat by Illinois State 44-13 at home in a game that coaches and players felt was one of the worst they had been a part of. This year’s loss was even worse.

Eastern has been blown out in both of its games this season, the first coming in a 55-20 loss to Arkansas. But at least in the loss to Arkansas, an SEC team, the team showed some good things on the field up front. In the Illinois State game, outside of running back Jamal Scott who had 99 yards rushing and one touchdown, there was nothing good Eastern can take with them from this game. 

The bottom line is Eastern’s roster is too talented to play like they did on Saturday; that is what makes this game a particularly tough pill to swallow. Granted Arkansas was an SEC school and Illinois State was the 19th ranked team in the FCS prior to the game, the way Eastern played on Saturday was entirely inexcusable, and that is a fact both coaches and players would readily admit to.

Eastern knew Illinois State was going to come in and play physical football in the trenches, and even with that in mind before the game, Illinois State’s offensive line still came into the game and pushed around Eastern’s defense with a tremendous amount of ease. 

This domination by the Illinois State line is coming off a game for the Eastern defensive line where they actually played pretty well against Arkansas. Against the Razorbacks, defensive tackle Terrell Greer led the team with eight tackles, defensive end Josh Price added three, tackle Taylon Shepard had three as well and freshman end D’Mitri George had two tackles for loss and one sack. 

Against Illinois State, the production from this was sparse. Price finished with five tackles on the edge and Greer had two. Other than that, there was little to behold from the defensive line. The unit produced no tackles for loss and no sacks. All game the line for Illinois State was moving the unit, creating holes for running back James Robinson to dart through on his way to a 154-yard performance. 

The defensive secondary might have been even worse. The Panthers gave up numerous big pass plays in the game, including a 97-yard touchdown pass from Illinois State quarterback Brady Davis to wide receiver Spencer Schnell. On that big pass play and all the other big pass plays one theme remained constant: The Eastern defensive backs were nowhere near the Illinois State receivers. 

It was simply lapses in execution and just plain getting burned that led to these big plays. What is even more troubling is this was an issue against Arkansas as well. The play by the secondary was so poor in fact that it prompted head coach Kim Dameron to say after the game that the staff would be looking at every aspect of the secondary to figure out how to fix it. 

Both the defensive line and secondary have talent. Greer is a good player that coaches were excited about in camp, the secondary boasts all-conference cornerback Mark Williams and the return of safety Raymond Crittenden from injury. Crittenden was also a guy whose name came up frequently in discussions throughout fall camp. 

Both of those units are too talented to play how they did on Saturday, and perhaps one good sign about that is they appear to recognize this. So far, there have been no excuses being made by anyone; they know they have to be better. 

The offense left a lot to be desired as well. Both quarterbacks competing for the starting job, Harry Woodbery and Johnathan Brantley struggled in getting the offense to move the ball down the field. 

Woodbery finished the game 13 of 21 passing with 109 yards and one interception. The interception was a pass that seemed to go right to Illinois State linebacker Ty DeForest. From the press box, it appeared that maybe Woodbery did not see him there at all. 

Brantley finished 9 of 15 passing with just 52 yards. He struggled to get the ball moving in the game; his longest pass went for just ten yards, and rushing the football, he managed just 47 yards on 11 carries for an average of 3.8 yards per carry.

Both Brantley and Woodbery are better than those stat lines, and like the defense, they will have a chance to prove it once again this weekend against a lowly Indiana State team that was 0-11 last season.

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