Eastern football team picks up 1st win of season


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern freshman defensive back JJ Ross (right) and teammate Trevon Brown celebrate following a play against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 28 at O'Brien Field. The Panthers lost the game 40-29

JJ Bullock, Editor-In-Chief

At long last the Eastern football team won a game.

Eastern beat Tennessee State 49-38 in Nashville on Saturday, securing its first win of the season and first career win for Adam Cushing as head coach of the Panthers.

The Panthers (1-9, 1-5 OVC) scored their season high in points in the win and scored 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points on their way to their first win since Nov. 10, 2018.

The 490 yards of offense Eastern had on offense is also a season-high, with 265 of those yards coming on the ground and 225 coming through the air.

Senior running back Darshon McCullough ran for 163 yards and a touchdown, while freshman running back Jaelin Benefield added 115 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time this season Eastern had two 100-yard rushers in a game.

Quarterback Harry Woodbery played in what was arguably his best game of the season. Woodbery, who has struggled in games this season, was 21-of-34 passing for 206 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the win on Saturday.

Eastern entered the fourth quarter trailing Tennessee State 38-35 but took the lead for good with 10:21 to play when Woodbery connected with tight end James Sheehan on a five-yard touchdown pass.

The Panthers added padding to their lead with 7:21 to play in the game, with Benefield scoring on a nine-yard run that brought the score to its final 49-38 figure.

Eastern’s defense buckled down in the fourth quarter, holding on to its lead and holding Tennessee State to negative 10 total yards in the quarter.

Tennessee State had 309 total yards of offense in the game, and the Eastern defense held them to just 5-of-14 on third down conversions.

The game is not just the first win of the season for the Panthers, but it looks like it might have been a coming of age party for the Eastern offense which was ranked last in the OVC in almost every statistic prior to the game.

The Panthers were coming off a loss to Eastern Kentucky in which they put up just 89 yards of offense and six points, so for Eastern to play like it did on Nov. 9 could mean the offense finally shed its demons or that the Panthers just took advantage of the OVC’s weakest defense.

Eastern’s next game is against Southeast Missouri on Saturday at noon.


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