Panthers lose on field goal as time expires

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

The Eastern football team was 41 seconds away from its first win of the season Sunday afternoon against Tennessee State.

Eastern kicker Stone Galloway had just made a 37-yard field goal to put Eastern up 20-18, but on the first play of the Tigers’ ensuing drive, quarterback Isaiah Green hit wide receiver Cam Wyche for 48 yards, setting up a game-winning field goal by Anthony Zita as time expired.

Eastern fell to 0-3 this season with the loss and Tennessee State improved to 1-2.

True freshman quarterback Otto Kuhns made his first career start for Eastern, and the Panthers were in control for much of the game.

They jumped ahead 3-0 on a 41-yard field goal from Galloway, the first lead for the Panthers this season.

Kuhns added his first two touchdown passes as a college quarterback and the Panthers were leading 17-3 at halftime.

The Tigers had two rushing touchdowns on their first two possessions of the third quarter, one from Devon Starling and one from Shawn McColley.

A missed extra point and a failed two-point conversion kept Eastern ahead heading into the fourth quarter.

The kickers were the stars of the final quarter.

Zita, who converted a career-high 51-yard field goal in the first quarter, made OVC history.

With just over four minutes left in the game, Zita knocked through a 62-yard field goal, tying the OVC record and coming up one-yard shy of the all-time FCS record.

The kick capped off a stretch of 15-unanswered points for the Tigers and also gave them their first lead of the game.

Galloway returned the favor with his go-ahead kick in the final minute before Zita ended the game.

Despite the loss, Kuhns was effective in his first start.

He was 19-of-30 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions.

On the receiving end of both touchdowns was tight end Jay Vallie, a graduate transfer from Dayton. He had 37 receiving yards on three catches total.

Sophomore running back Jaelin Benefield has his most productive game of the season, carrying the ball 16 times for a career-high 120 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Eastern was led by sophomore linebacker Jason Johnson with 14 total tackles, leading both teams and also setting a new-career high for Johnson. He also had a tackle for loss.

Freshman defensive end Miles Jordan recorded the lone sack for the Panthers, which also forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore linebacker Anthony Shockey.

Tennessee State’s quarterback was 21-for-32 passing for 257 yards. He was without a touchdown or interception in the game. Starling led the team with 23 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Eastern will continue the search for its first March 21 when they host Tennessee Tech. The game will kick off at 1 p.m. from O’Brien Field.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]