Column: Time for Eastern football team to step up is now


Jordan Boyer

Eastern wide receiver Aaron Gooch (7) and Alexander Hollins (15) celebrate a touchdown socred by Gooch in the Panthers 41-40 to Tennesse State on Saturday. Too have more moments like this the rest of the season, the team has to begin to play better.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

I received an email this week from an Eastern football fan voicing his displeasure with the team’s performance following Eastern’s 41-40 loss to Tennessee State, in which they coughed up a 21-point lead and gave up 544 yards on defense. If there is one thing that email tells me, it is that the frustration surrounding the team’s 0-4 start to the season has boiled over to reach everyone: Fans, coaches and players alike.

The frustration among the coaching staff has been evident since the team suffered a 48-10 bludgeoning at the hands of Illinois State, when head coach Kim Dameron called out the secondary for their subpar performance. The situation became even more dire the next week when the team put up 41 points on offense, but still lost to Indiana State 55-41. That loss led to Dameron and his coaching staff doing an entire overhaul of the defense, switching to a 3-3-5 set versus the 4-3 scheme the team previously employed. 

After the 41-40 loss to Tennessee State on Family Weekend, even the players’ displeasure was clear. In the hallway outside of the room the press conference was held, raised voices of players speaking to one another could be heard, and the players in the press conference itself were honest with where the team was at.

Senior linebacker Joe Caputo voiced the obvious saying something on the defensive side of the ball had to change, letting it be known the unit could not keep giving up 40-plus points every week. 

Caputo feels the team is still giving 100 percent effort every game and could not really put his finger on why the defense had been playing so poorly compared to years past, considering they have returned mostly the same players. All he could point to that needed to change was the mindset. The team is very aware of the situation it is in now; both Caputo and tight end James Sheehan mentioned they have to go 7-0 the rest of the season to have a chance at the playoffs.

The team knows tackling has been a huge issue this season, and that was one of the things Caputo said needed to change going forward. But, possibly where the biggest issues lie is that the team did make a change, and a drastic one at that, switching defensive schemes in the middle of the season, and even that did not work.

I am no football expert and I do not pretend to be, but when I look at this team and see the changes that have been made and the results that they have produced, it is difficult to imagine any scheme change turning the season around. 

From what I can tell, Caputo hit the nail right on the head: The Eastern team needs to change its mentality. The fact that the team is frustrated I believe is a good first step in the right direction. The bottom line is the team is not and should not be pleased with how they have played this season. Hopefully this week during practice the team turns this frustration into motivation to make a change, and not an X’s and O’s change, but an execution change. 

Yes, the defense needs to tackle better, and the run game on offense cannot take weeks off. The mindset the Eastern football team needs to have right now is that they owe it not only to themselves to play better, but they owe it to the parents that traveled to Charleston for Family Weekend to watch them blow a 21-point lead, and they owe it to the fans to play better football. 

I would not be writing this harshly about the team if I felt the roster had the makeup of an 0-4 team, but it does not. This team has talent all over the field, they’re better than 0-4, and that is why the fans are frustrated now too. They recognize this, and hopefully the players do, too. 

Here is another truth that should be treated as such this week: The Eastern football team is better than Tennessee Tech. They have better players all over the roster and in any other year, should be coming into this week ready to roll over the Golden Eagles. But the way the team is playing right now, that is not a given. 

But, to avoid the embarrassment of losing to the conference’s worst team, the Eastern football team needs to put itself in the state of mind that they are better than Tennessee Tech, and that they are better than 0-4.

There is no more room for error.

As Sheehan said after the last game, the team “has its back against the wall.” And when you’re in a corner, you can either cover yourself up and take the beating or start swinging, and it’s time for Eastern to start swinging. 

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