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Panther football team faces ‘daunting’ task in Jacksonville State

Eastern+linebackers+Joe+Caputo+%2845%29+and+Camden+Meade+%2853%29+strut+back+to+the+sideline+in+Eastern%E2%80%99s+48-41+loss+to+Murray+State+on+Saturday.+Eastern+sits+at+1-5+overall+with+a+1-2+conference+record.+
Eastern linebackers Joe Caputo (45) and Camden Meade (53) strut back to the sideline in Eastern’s 48-41 loss to Murray State on Saturday. Eastern sits at 1-5 overall with a 1-2 conference record.

Eastern linebackers Joe Caputo (45) and Camden Meade (53) strut back to the sideline in Eastern’s 48-41 loss to Murray State on Saturday. Eastern sits at 1-5 overall with a 1-2 conference record.

Adam Tumino

Adam Tumino

Eastern linebackers Joe Caputo (45) and Camden Meade (53) strut back to the sideline in Eastern’s 48-41 loss to Murray State on Saturday. Eastern sits at 1-5 overall with a 1-2 conference record.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

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Eastern’s head football coach Kim Dameron said he had to splash his face with cold water to keep himself from passing out while watching film on his team’s opponent this Saturday; Jacksonville State. 

That is how good the Gameocks have been this season. 

Whether or not Dameron literally had to cool himself off while watching film, only he knows. But one thing that is certain is that Jacksonville State, which has won 35 conference games in a row, has been the juggernaut of the OVC this season, and it is now Eastern’s turn to try and slow them down. 

“We have a daunting task ahead of us to go to Jacksonville State and try to shock the world,” Dameron said during this week’s OVC teleconference. 

Jacksonville State, now ranked 8th in the FCS, has the OVC’s top offense, averaging 48 points per game and the league’s top defense allowing just 15.8 points per game. 

To say the least, the Gamecocks have bullied teams on both sides of the ball this season. 

The offense is led by a tandem of quarterbacks in Zion Webb and Clemson transfer Zerrick Cooper. 

Webb can damage teams heavily with his legs and is also no sham throwing the ball, while Cooper leads the OVC with a 157 passer efficiency rating forming a two-headed monster that has given the opposition fits all season long. 

“We always want the quarterbacks to stay in the pocket, so we usually try to contain them,” linebacker Dytarious Johnson said. “We usually do have a linebacker or someone to just make sure that they are in the pocket at all times, but that is mainly our main priority is keeping them in the pocket. They’re both good with their legs, one is better passing the ball than the other one so hopefully we just make them keep wanting the quarterback in throughout the game, so hopefully we can manage that.”

Jacksonville State also boasts a big, physical offensive line and a receiver in Josh Pearson who is second in the OVC with eight touchdown catches this season. 

Johnson said the linebackers have been strategizing a lot against their offensive lineman. 

Three Gamecock lineman were named preseason all-conference players, the team’s center Tyler Scozzaro and both guards in B.J. Autry and Darius Anderson. 

“You’re not going to stop this offense, you’re just not,” Dameron said. “Again, we try to make the plays, the plays that they make, not just be totally explosive to the endzone and all that stuff. You just try to manage this team, they’ve got playmakers at every spot.”

Tackling came up once again when Dameron talked about what his team had to do to stop the opposition, the poor tackling by his defense has been a major topic of conversation all season long. 

“There is no big secret to it, we just have got to do a better job tackling,” Dameron said. “We’ve worked on it really hard this week, the kids have worked really hard, they’ve been embarrassed about the way we’ve done things. Hopefully we are getting better.”

There is no secret that Eastern feels they are better than the 1-5 record it holds to its name, something Johnson reiterated on Wednesday. With that said, the Panthers also recognize the team they will meet on Saturday has been top dog in the conference for quite some time, which adds a little bit more fire to Eastern. 

“We would like to think we have got some pep every week but, yeah, you’re going to go play one of the top teams in the country and it’s a challenge,” Dameron said. “Every game is a challenge in this league and in any league.”

At the end of everything that could be said about the powerhouse that is Jacksonville State or Eastern’s 1-5 record, Dameron expressed his happiness with the attitude his players have put forward in the face of adversity this season.

“We have had two good days of practice… I cannot say enough good things about the attitude of this football team,” Dameron said. “I wish that our won-loss record was better, but I can tell you this, the attitude of the team, the work ethic of the team and their enthusiasm for the game has not changed a bit.”

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

About the Writer
JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

Hey, I’m JJ Bullock and I am the Sports Editor. I am a junior journalism major. I spent last year as the Assistant Sports Editor. Prior to that I served as the sports designer for The Daily Eastern News. I have covered men’s soccer, men’s and women’s golf, football, men’s and women’s basketball and softball in my time at the DEN.

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Panther football team faces ‘daunting’ task in Jacksonville State