Eastern to play OVC-leading Skyhawks

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Eastern to play OVC-leading Skyhawks

Eastern running back Jaelin Benefield attempts to escape the grasp of a Tennessee Tech defender on Sept. 28 at O'Brien Field. Benefield had 69 receiving yards, 46 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Panthers' 40-29 loss to the Golden Eagles.

Eastern running back Jaelin Benefield attempts to escape the grasp of a Tennessee Tech defender on Sept. 28 at O'Brien Field. Benefield had 69 receiving yards, 46 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Panthers' 40-29 loss to the Golden Eagles.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern running back Jaelin Benefield attempts to escape the grasp of a Tennessee Tech defender on Sept. 28 at O'Brien Field. Benefield had 69 receiving yards, 46 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Panthers' 40-29 loss to the Golden Eagles.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern running back Jaelin Benefield attempts to escape the grasp of a Tennessee Tech defender on Sept. 28 at O'Brien Field. Benefield had 69 receiving yards, 46 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Panthers' 40-29 loss to the Golden Eagles.

JJ Bullock, Editor-in-Chief

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When it comes to the Ohio Valley Conference’s first-place team Tennessee-Martin (4-2, 3-0 OVC), the Skyhawks do no beat you utilizing one or two star players like Jacksonville State, rather, they come at opponents with a deep roster that make very few mistakes.

Defense in particular is where Tennessee-Martin really shows its depth.

The Skyhawks have three players in the top eight in the conference in tackles, two players in the top six in sacks, the third best pass interceptor in the conference and the third best fumble forcer.

Tennessee-Martin defenders have their names dotted all over OVC leader boards and the unit as a whole ranks second in the conference in rush defense.

“I’ll be honest I am not so sure they have one star, as much as they have a bunch of guys just playing together as a team, their defense plays together so well,” Eastern head coach Adam Cushing said. “Creating turnovers, but those turnovers aren’t just that guy, it’s everybody doing their job and they are a physical unit, they really are. I really give Coach a lot of respect for the way that they play football on both sides of the ball up front, they are physical, they come at you. When you have an entire defense that plays physical… you know there are some standouts but you turn the film on and you go ‘man that’s a good defense,’ it is not ‘that guy is great,’ that’s a good defense.”

The defense has been a big reason Tennessee-Martin is sitting, somewhat surprisingly, in first place six games into its season. But the Skyhawks have an efficient offense that compliments the defense well led by quarterback John Bachus and running back Peyton Logan.

Logan is third in the OVC in rushing yards per game (88.3) and Bachus has thrown just four interceptions this season.

“Good football team, playing with a ton of confidence,” Cushing said. “You watch the cut-ups and they’re physical, they really are, they’re really good on both sides of the ball up front, they’re running the football and they’re deep, they’re playing three different backs that can hurt you on offense. All three of them have some home run hitters.”

Cushing views the team overall as one that plays hard and is well coached.

“The quarterback is playing at a high level, he’s playing very efficiently, that’s talking about just their offense,” Cushing said. “Their defense does a nice job of moving around and keeping you on your toes and kind of making it, that 3-3 defense, making it challenging of knowing where they are all of the time. They’re a well-coached football team.”

Tennessee-Martin was just 2-9 last season and did not garner a lot of respect in the OVC preseason poll. But now the Skyhawks have caught people’s attention and for someone like Cushing who is new to the conference, he watches Tennessee-Martin and wonder why they weren’t picked to finish higher.

“All I really know is what we see on video this year and what we see on video this year you kind of think, ‘how come they weren’t picked?’” Cushing said. “Because they have some talent but they play hard, they play hard and that makes a huge difference. It can be the difference when you have got the ability, you have got some guys that have the game experience under their belt, playing the way they play can make a big difference.”

Tennessee-Martin and Eastern kickoff at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

 

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