Panthers to play Tigers for Homecoming


Rob Le Cates | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern quarterback Otto Kuhns (left) drops back to pass in the Panthers’ game against Tennessee-Martin on Oct. 16 at O’Brien Field. Kuhns threw for a touchdown and ran for another in the game, which Eastern lost 28-17.

Autumn Schulz, Assistant Sports Editor

O’Brien Field will be the place to be this Saturday as the Eastern football team faces off against Tennessee State in the 103rd Homecoming Game. Eastern head coach Adam Cushing said that he expects it will be a great environment.  

“We got a bunch of former players coming back, our ‘78 National Championship team is having a bunch of guys come back,” he said. “Talked to a bunch of former players that are coming so it’s going to be a great environment and that’s one of the fun things about college football.”   

This will be the first homecoming game for the Panthers since the 2019 season due to the 2020 Homecoming Game being cancelled due to COVID-19.  

The Panthers are coming off a tough loss to No. 13 Tennessee-Martin last weekend but Cushing said that they are still a good football team and that he has belief in his players. 

“We are a pretty darn good football team, just a couple of plays away and that’s what you look at. There were about two or three plays on each side of the ball that really ended up being the swing of the game and that’s always the case. They made those three plays, obviously the blocked punt was a major play in the game, but we continued to lead and then there’s obviously the interception late and a touchdown given up late. We’re a pretty darn good football team and I’ve got a ton of belief in these guys. So excited for them to just keep on getting better and we’re definitely playing our best football this season.” 

The Panthers’ defense continues to be on top of their game with junior linebacker Jason Johnson leading the OVC in tackles with 71 and ranking 12th in the FCS. Johnson put up 14 stops against Tennessee-Martin, his third straight double figure tackle game.  

The defense is currently sixth in the FCS in pass defense allowing 158.7 yards per game. 

Offensively, wide receiver DeAirious Smith leads the Panthers in scoring and is tenth in the OVC in touchdowns. Wide receiver Arron Foulkes caught a team-high of five passes for 32 yards last Saturday and is averaging 14.5 yards per reception which ranks seventh in the OVC. 

Quarterback Otto Kuhns passed and rushed for a touchdown last Saturday for the first time in his college career. Kuhns has passed for 846 yards on the season with five touchdowns and has rushed for 74 yards. 

The Panthers also saw some long-awaited players return to the field last Saturday. Wide receiver Isaiah Hill returned for the first time since the 2019 season due to injury and had two catches for 19 yards.  

In 2019, Hill led the Panthers in receptions and receiving yards with 57 catches for 569 yards. Cushing said to see the return of players like Hill really helped the offense on Saturday. 

“I am most happy for them. You talk about a guy like Isaiah that has just battled and battled and he has worked so hard to get himself back,” he said. “Xander (Richards) came back and Tyler Ringwood did some snaps. The whole reason you do this thing is to play football and they finally got their opportunity to do it, but it was also great for the offense.” 

The Panthers will be up against strong forces on both sides of the ball this Saturday.  

The Tigers will enter Saturday’s game on a two-game win streak and with a record of 3-3 overall and 1-1 in OVC standings. The Tigers are led by quarterback Geremy Hickbottom who has 1,307 passing yards and 9 touchdown passes. 

Tight end Rodell Rahmaan has seventeen receptions this season, six of those being touchdowns. Running back Devon Starling leads in rushing yards with 484.  

Linebackers Jahsun Bryant and James Green are tied for the team lead in tackles with 40 each. 


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