Panthers fall 22-6 to Racers Saturday

Eastern+quarterback+Otto+Kuhns+hands+the+ball+to+running+back+Kendi+Young+during+practice+on+Sept.+27+at+OBrien+Field.+Young+had+28+yards+on+5+carries+in+the+Panthers+22-6+loss+to+Murray+State+on+Saturday.+

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern quarterback Otto Kuhns hands the ball to running back Kendi Young during practice on Sept. 27 at O’Brien Field. Young had 28 yards on 5 carries in the Panthers’ 22-6 loss to Murray State on Saturday.

Autumn Schulz, Assistant Sports Editor

The gloomy Saturday evening at Roy Stewart Stadium in Kentucky set the tone for the Eastern football team as they lost to Murray State 22-6.  

Head coach Adam Cushing said that the loss on Saturday was a result of the team shooting themselves in the foot and that it is on the coaches to put them in better situations in future games. 

“I said raise your hand if you thought that team was sixteen points better than us, but the reality is that they were on this day because we beat ourselves,” he said. “I’ve got to give them a ton of credit they made the plays they needed to make. They obviously made some kicks that made it that margin of victory, that was critical for them. They had a really good kicker and that seems to continue to be a factor in the game, but we shot ourselves in the foot and that one hundred percent starts with us as coaches. I take full responsibility on that, we obviously had a player that made some mistakes, but we have to put them in better situations. The good part is that we have the bye week to figure it out and get them ready to make the play when the number is called and when the play comes their way.” 

The Racers certainly utilized their kicker, Aaron Baum, in the first half against the Panthers. The Racers successfully ended their first drive of the game with a 46-yard field goal by Baum, putting the Racers up 3-0.  

With about four minutes to play in the first quarter, the Panthers had a chance to tie things up with a 36-yard field goal attempt by Stone Galloway, but it was ultimately unsuccessful.   

The beginning of the second quarter was quite successful for quarterback Preston Rice and the Racers. 

Driving deep into Panther territory, Rice successfully connected with DJ Williams on a 14-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Aaron Baum when then added another 41-yard field goal helping the Racers increase their lead to 13-0 at halftime.  

Murray State’s offense greatly held the offensive advantage in the second quarter after putting up 200 yards of offense compared to just 11 yards for the Panthers. The Racers also outrushed the Panthers 183 to 75.  

The 11 yards for the Panthers was a result of quarterback Otto Kuhns exiting the game with just a little over nine minutes to go in the second quarter due to injury.  

Kuhns was 4-of-10 passing for 37 yards on the game. The Panthers then turned to back-up quarterback Chris Katrenick to finish the game. 

Racer running back Damonta Witherspoon led the Racers with 141 yards on the ground with a 5-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter that put the Racers on top 19-0. 

The Racers would then go on to seal the results late in the fourth quarter with a 46-yard field goal by kicker Aaron Baum. 

The Racers’ kicking game contributed to the loss on Saturday, but Cushing said that the team going 3 of 16 on third down conversions also shot them in the foot.  

“Obviously, they made their kicks and that changed the game. They get nine points out of that sixteen-point ball game, that’s a big deal. The bottom line was that we kept finding time to shoot ourselves in the foot. We don’t pick up the blitz on the third down, that was a critical time. We have the late hit when the defense is getting off the field, everybody took a turn. The message is that when you are playing a really good football team like this, you just can’t. You can’t afford to shoot yourselves in the foot. You don’t have to be perfect, but you can’t be way wrong. You just got to do what your job is and sometimes they are going to make a play but if you give them a play, it makes it really hard.”    

It was not until early in the fourth quarter that Panther quarterback Chris Katrenick connected with wide receiver Arron Foulkes for a 54-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 19-6. 

Katrenick was 12-of-35 for 175 yards against the Racers. Cushing said that Katrenick lacked help from everyone after stepping into the game.   

“I don’t think we helped him a great deal line wise right when he walked in the game. Running back wise, I don’t think that we were playing our best,” he said. “We talk about how the next guy up has to be able to pick up the flag and go but it requires everybody, not just him. I was really proud of the way that he responded, obviously, just kept on fighting and had a couple of big runs for us. We have a ton of confidence in him to start the game for us and I think the guy’s kind of banded together and showed some nice things in the fourth quarter.” 

Panther wide receiver Arron Foulkes had the best game of his career Saturday evening after he finished the game with six catches for 123 yards. Cushing said that Foulkes has remained steady for the Panthers since the start of the season.  

“The moment is never too big for Arron, and he keeps just getting a little better every week,” he said. “I am really proud of him because we talked all week about just finding that one percent better, just finding that way to grow a little bit, Arron is one of those guys that has really embraced that. A few guys have gone down but he’s one of those guys that have just been steady for us, and I am excited about his future; he continues to show great things.” 

Defensively, the Panthers were led by Jason Johnson and Colin Bohanek as they both finished with seven tackles.  

However, the Panthers were penalized 6 times for 75 yards. One of the penalties came with a little over seven minutes to play in the third quarter after safety Jordan Vincent roughed the passer.  

Cushing said that the coaches have tolerated too many penalties and personal fouls so far this season.  

“That’s on us as coaches I take full responsibility on that. I’m disappointed in myself for allowing that to happen in the game and we as coaches have to get that out of the game,” he said. “That is a coach’s thing, we can coach them better on that. What I don’t want to do is slow Jordan Vincent down a hair. I don’t want him to not play his fastest that he can possibly play. We just have to put them in those situations. Honestly, we have tolerated a little bit of that too much so far this season and we have got to do that better.”  

Panther Junior defensive back Russell Dandy had his best game thus far after having 3 turnovers with 2 interceptions to top off a forced fumble and 7 tackles.  

‘There’s no question and Russell is one of those guys that when you see him, he’s got speed, plays with violence, and he loves playing football,” he said. “I mean I can say this about a lot of guys on the team but Russell loves playing the game. He has more fun out here than I maybe do because I love game day. He has just practiced so well all season long. Russell shows up every day and he plays at full speed every play and he plays with violence every play. He really is a joy to be around on the football field.”  

The Panthers will return to football on Oct. 16 to host Tennessee-Martin at O’Brien Field.  

 

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