Panthers lose after struggles in 2nd half


Rob Le Cates | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern head coach Adam Cushing (center) expresses displeasures with a call on the field in Eastern’s Homecoming Game against Tennessee State on Oct. 23 at O’Brien Field. Eastern lost to the Tigers 28-0.

Autumn Schulz, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern football team had a 9-7 lead at halftime on Saturday afternoon against Southeast Missouri but could not hold on for the win as they fell 38-15. Head coach Adam Cushing credits the loss to getting beat in all phases of the game. 

“Obviously, we had a heck of a first half and you look back at the last three weeks that’s kind of what we have been doing,” he said. “We’ve been playing good football in the first half: complementary football, took the ball away, capitalized on it, and took a few chances. We haven’t come out in the second half and played all that well, pretty consistently. We got beat in all phases in today and that’s on us as coaches. We have got to give our young men better opportunities.” 

The Panthers had a promising first half on Saturday afternoon and it all began with the defense. With a little more than ten minutes to go in the first quarter, safety Jordan Vincent forced Redhawk wide receiver Rashaan Palmer to fumble at the EIU 21-yard line. Vincent returned the fumble for 51 yards, deep into Redhawks territory. 

Linebacker Jason Johnson led the defense with 14 tackles, Vincent followed behind with eight tackles to add to his forced fumble and recovery. 

The offense would use their field position to their advantage, allowing quarterback Otto Kuhns to connect with wide receiver Isaiah Hill for a 5-yard touchdown run giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead after the extra point was missed.  

It was Kuhns and Hill that led the offense Saturday afternoon to 362 total yards. Kuhns was 14-of-30, passing for 211 yards and one touchdown. Hill would finish the day with 11 catches for 207 yards and one touchdown. He also added three rushes for nine yards with one rushing touchdown.  

Cushing said that having Hill back to the offense makes an enormous difference.  

“Isaiah makes an enormous difference in the offense. Evidence by the plays he makes out there, but it’s because of the way he practices,” he said. “He practices incredibly hard and goes that speed every single play that he is in, practice or a game. There is no difference and that is why he can have that level of success on the field. So, it’s really exciting to have him back, obviously.” 

The Redhawks would respond with a Geno Hess 17-yard touchdown run, putting them on top 7-6 but the Panthers would go in to halftime with a 9-7 lead after a successful 41-yard field goal by Stone Galloway.  

The Redhawks outrushed the Panthers on the ground 167-87 with running back Jaelin Benefield leading the way for the Panthers with 40 yards.  

Hess rushed for 65 yards in the first half and was limited to just 107 yards overall. Cushing said that the defense did a great job but the offense just could not back them up.  

“I thought first half defense did a great job. We did not do a great job offensively in the second half of playing complementary football, giving the defense some rest, that kind of thing,” he said. “They battled well and but obviously SEMO, coach Matukewicz and his staff did a nice job of really just sticking with their game plan and eventually just kind of cracking through it.” 

The halftime lead for the Panthers would soon be erased, however, by the start of the second half. Freshman super back Daniel Luoma kicked off 51 yards to the SEMO 14-yard line where Redhawk defensive back Shabari Davis would return it for an 86-yard touchdown giving the Redhawks a 14-9 lead. 

The Redhawks would continue to own the game after that. Quarterback CJ Ogbonna would tack on a 24-yard touchdown run to end the third quarter, pushing the lead to 24-9. Ogbonna completed 9-of-16 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. 

With about ten minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Ogbonna connected with Johnny King on a 33-yard touchdown pass, putting them on top 31-9 after a successful field goal attempt by Kenny Doak.  

The Panthers would go on one last run as Kuhns connected with Hill for a 16-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Redhawks’ lead to 31-15 as the 2-point conversion attempt was picked off in the end zone.  

The Redhawks took advantage of good field position after they recovered an on-side kick at the EIU 44-yard line. Ogbonna would haul in a 23-yard touchdown pass to Rashaan Palmer, followed by a Doak field goal, sealing the 38-15 victory.  

The Panthers fell to 1-8 overall, 1-3 in the OVC. The Redhawks improved to 3-6 on the season, 3-1 in the OVC. 

The Panthers will open the month of November on the road against Austin Peay next Saturday. 


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