Panthers ready for matchup with Racers


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern players including safety Jordan Vincent (left) participate in a drill in practice on Wednesday morning. The Panthers are preparing for their second conference game of the season on the road against Murray State on Saturday.

Autumn Schulz, Assistant Sports Editor

This Saturday will be just one of the two times that the Eastern football team will meet Murray State for a non-conference game this fall. 

The Panthers are coming off their first win of the season after beating Tennessee Tech 28-14 last weekend at Tucker Stadium. The Panthers are now 1-0 in the OVC and 1-4 overall. 

Head coach Adam Cushing said that the win against the Golden Eagles last week was not a coincidence. 

“Really, really proud of the guys. They have just continued to battle,” he said. “Obviously, we had a lot of close calls throughout the season so far but a ton of credit to the players who just keep showing up. That was the hardest we played and the best we’ve played all season and it’s not a coincidence that we won.”  

The game against Murray State will mark the 5th road game for the Panthers this year. Murray State will then come to O’Brien Field on Nov. 20 for the final regular season game. 

Cushing said that no matter where the competition is, the team must be able to give their best effort.  

“We love playing here at O’Brien a lot more but it’s a part of college football,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to go win on the road and obviously that is something we proved we can do last week. I think strangely the guys, with as many games as we’ve had, are starting to get comfortable with that routine. In the end, that’s something we talked about during preseason camp. We changed up our routine during preseason camp somewhat just to be able to say hey I don’t care if they put the ball down at 7:00 PM, 9:00 PM, or at 6:00 AM, it doesn’t matter wherever it is whenever it is, we got to be able to give our best effort.” 

The win last weekend over the Golden Eagles was certainly a team effort for the Panthers, both offensively and defensively.  

Quarterback Otto Kuhns surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for his career after he passed for 183 yards and two touchdowns.  

Linebacker Jason Johnson had 16 tackles against the Golden Eagles and now leads the OVC with 45 tackles.  

Freshman wide receiver DeAirious Smith was the second Panther wide receiver to pass the 100 yard mark in a single game this season after he finished the day with 6 catches for 109 yards. He now leads the team in scoring. 

Cushing said that DeAirious’ performance last Saturday was earned through his hard work in practice.  

“I mean that’s kind of one of the things we talk about. You know, unfortunately injuries are a part of football, but that just creates an opportunity for somebody else,” he said. “That’s the reality and that’s how we have to look at it. The guys have done a great job of picking up the flag and just moving forward. DeAirious did obviously a great job, but he didn’t do it on accident, it didn’t just show up on Saturday. He’s been consistently showing up to practice and giving maximum effort. He earned what he did on Saturday by the last couple weeks of practice and what stands out about him is that he is a young player. We actually moved him from receiver to corner, back to receiver, because he is really talented, and we wanted to find a place for him on the field. He’s finally maturing into that role of understanding, he’s taking notes in every meeting, he’s doing those little things that earns you that success.” 

The Panthers will be going up against Racer Quarterback Preston Rice, the key to the Murray State offense. Rice is considered a dual-threat player, he has rushed for 102 yards and has thrown for 297 yards and five touchdowns. 

Racer running backs Damonta Witherspoon and Cortezz Jones are both over 100 rushing yards this season. Wide receiver LaMartez Brooks has been the top wide receiver for the Racers with 12 catches for 151 yards on the season.  

Racer linebacker Levi Metheny leads the team with 13 tackles on the season.  

The Panther’s defense will be going into the weekend with Jordan Miles, who was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week following his performance against the Golden Eagles.  

Miles finished the game with four tackles, three of them being sacks. His two finals sacks forced fumbles that were recovered by the Panther’ defense to end the Golden Eagles’ drives. He now leads the OVC with 7.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks.  

Cushing said that a player being rewarded for their hard work is just as exciting for the whole team as it is for that individual player. 

“I am happy for them obviously and any version of that notoriety is good for them and football, but we always say that it’s a team award,” he said. “Jordan got three sacks because Tim Varga had two in the game also and they are having to make sure that both edges are covered up, we’re getting great push on the pockets so that Jordan is getting great single blocks. It’s great individual effort and we love it but again I give credit to all their teammates. Logen Neidhardt is not going to have those super long punts without great coverage. It’s exciting to see the guys be rewarded for their effort but it’s even more exciting for the whole team.” 


Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]