Panthers preparing for final road game


Rob Le Cates | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern quarterback Otto Kuhns prepares to release the ball in Eastern’s Homecoming Game against Tennessee State on Oct. 23 at O’Brien Field. Eastern lost the game 28-0 to the Tigers.

Autumn Schulz, Assistant Sports Editor

The Eastern football team will be heading to Fortera Stadium this weekend to take on Austin Peay for their final road game of the season.  

The Panthers are coming off a 38-15 loss to Southeast Missouri while the Governors are coming off a 16-15 loss to No. 12 Tennessee-Martin. 

Head coach Adam Cushing said that the Panthers are expecting to go up against the fastest team that they have played all season. 

“They play incredibly fast on offense, probably as fast as anyone we play,” he said. “They have a ton of explosive weapons. Defensively, they’re very experienced with a ton of graduate students starting for them. They understand how to play to their strengths on defense and execute at a high level.” 

At the beginning of the season, the Governors were in the Top 25 rankings after picking up a win over, at the time, No. 18 Chattanooga during opening weekend. They remained ranked until late September rolled around, knocking them off both FCS polls. 

 They are now 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the OVC. Quarterback Draylen Ellis leads the offense for the Governors with a league-high of 1,709 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. 

Wide receiver Baniko Harley has been the top target for the Governors this season with 43 catches for 645 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Ahmaad Tanner leads with 626 yards and nine touchdowns. Defensively, Koby Perry leads with 61 tackles. 

After losing to the Redhawks last Saturday, the Panthers fell to 1-8 overall and 1-3 in the OVC, pushing their losing streak to four games.  

The Panthers will have to utilize the return of wide receiver Isaiah Hill in order to succeed against the Governors this weekend. The 2019 All-OVC Newcomer returned for just his third game this season against the Redhawks last weekend, hauling in 11 passes for 207 yards with one touchdown reception.  

Cushing said that Hill’s comeback has been made possible because of his tireless work ethic. 

“He worked his butt off to make it back earlier this season to help his teammates,” he said. “He is driven, focused and practices at full speed all the time. I’m so happy for him to find the success he earned.” 

The Panthers will also be relying on their pass defense, which leads the OVC and ranks seventh nationally, in order to secure the victory. They are allowing 163.2 yards per game and have held eight of its nine opponents this season below 200 passing yards. 

Linebacker Jason Johnson finished with 14 tackles against the Redhawks, pushing his season total to 94, which leads the OVC. Johnson ranks 14th in the FCS in total tackles and 13th for his 50 solo tackles this season.  

He is on track to become the first Panther with 100 tackles in a season since 2015. Linebacker Colin Bohanek ranks closely behind Johnson in the OVC with 71 tackles this season. 

Starting Quarterback Otto Kuhns had 211 passing yards against the Redhawks last weekend. He is now 91-of-193 for 1,127 yards and six touchdowns this season.  

The Panthers will be looking to take control of the momentum this weekend after a rough offensive performance against the Redhawks. With a touchdown reverse and the second half kickoff being returned 86-yards for a touchdown, the Panthers certainly lost their spark. 

However, Cushing said that they will go into this weekend focusing in the moment in order to prevent that from happening again. 

“Certainly, we lost momentum on Saturday and didn’t get it back. To get momentum back, it’s simply about focusing in the moment,” he said. “We say “W.I.N., “What’s Important Now. You grab momentum just by making the next play; and not making the moment too big.” 


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