Dameron wants to see full game from defense


Bryan Bund

Indiana State running back ja’Quan Keys runs through a tackle attempt by Levi Watson (99) as linebacker Joe Caputo (45) runs in to bring him down. The defense for Eastern has been a focal point all season, and this week against Murray State the unit hopes to play well for all four quarters.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

The narrative for the Eastern football team has stayed the same through the first five weeks of the season. Every discussion has revolved almost exclusively around the struggles of the defense.

After weeks one, two and three, the tone was that the defense was simply just not good enough. In week four the defense switched schemes, and after a 41-40 loss to Tennessee State and the narrative changed, instead of the defense playing entirely horrible, head coach Kim Dameron said he saw the defense played good for only one half of the game. 

When the Eastern football team picked up its first win of the season in a 52-38 win over Tennessee Tech, the narrative progressed; this time, however, Dameron said he saw the defense work well for three full quarters before letting things get out of hand in the fourth quarter. 

Dameron wants to see a full four quarters of good play from his defense this Saturday against Murray State, something he says is going to take continued tweaks of the defense.

“When we get there far ahead that they have to become one dimensional, we have to make them pay for that,” Dameron said. “Instead of just getting back there and letting them throw the ball down the seams and hit four or five big plays just in the fourth quarter. We have got to make them pay. So when we get them in a situation to where they are one dimensional and we know they have to throw, we have got to make those throws down the field and that’s just something right now that we haven’t done, but we have to find a way to get it done.”

Most of the points and yards Eastern has been giving up late in games have been through the air, which is not really too much of a surprise considering teams tend to lean on the pass as games move into late stages. 

But where the concern comes in is with the Panthers’ inability to stop teams from passing all over the field.

Eastern gave up 28 second-half points to Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech, and 21 of those points against Tennessee Tech came in the fourth quarter alone.

What Dameron says it is going to really come down to is the team putting players out on the field who are “hungry” to compete and finish games. 

In the front seven, Dameron recognizes that there are a lot of guys in that unit that have played a lot of games, and he is very happy this week to see the return of sophomore linebacker Austin Johnson this week, who has been gone since fall camp. 

But, he is still waiting to see more from the inside three guys on defense. 

“Our three inside guys, we have just been searching for guys to grow up and make plays,” Dameron said. “We’re looking at anybody and everybody as far as being able to help us in that area and so you never know who you might see in the secondary this week.”

The secondary has been a stress point for the defense, and health and lack of execution have had a lot to do with that. 

Both all-conference cornerback Mark Williams and fellow starter DySaun Smith have been injured on and off this season, and the back end of the secondary has had its holes and share of rotation on the depth chart in an effort to solve the issues.

It will be especially important for the defense to show up and make the plays Dameron hopes to see them make this week because Murray State is a team a lot like Eastern, with a high-powered offense but a defense that leaves a lot to be desired. 

The Racers started the season 0-3 but, like Eastern, picked up its first win last week in a big 45-38 win over Tennessee-Martin in an offensive shootout. 

Eastern is anticipating to see a very similar game that Tennessee-Martin did against the Racers.

“(Murray State) is going to have a lot of familiarity as far as the two offenses are concerned, because they kind of come from the same family to be honest with you,” Dameron said. “And both defenses have struggled this year and so there is a good possibility that there might be a lot of offense. But, you never know in a game like this.”

It does not take long to find the similarities between Murray State and Eastern. Both teams are coming off of conference games where they scored over 40 points, and both teams have defenses that rank in the bottom three in the conference.

 Eastern was picked to finish 5th in the conference this preseason and Murray State was picked to finish 7th. All season long these teams have mirrored each other in a lot of ways and this Saturday the two will finally have a chance to separate themselves from each other. 

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