Turnovers lead to Eastern loss Saturday


Rob Le Cates | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern running back Jaelin Benefield avoids a Tennessee State player while running the ball at the Homecoming Game on Oct. 23 at O’Brien Field. Benefield ran for 56 yards in the game, which the Panthers lost to the Tigers by a score of 28-0.

Autumn Schulz, Assistant Sports Editor

Numerous turnovers in the first half ultimately decided the fate of the Eastern football team Saturday afternoon at Fortera Stadium as Austin Peay beat the Panthers 46-26. 

The six turnovers in the contest for the Panthers helped the Governors set a new program record, but things did not start out in favor of the home team.  

 Just seconds into the first quarter, Panther safety Jordan Vincent forced running back Ahmaad Tanner to fumble at the Governor 21-yard line which allowed Jordan Miles to recover the ball at the 23-yard line.  

Taking advantage of the field position, the Panthers offense cashed in the turnover with a 26-yard field goal attempt by Stone Galloway to put the Panthers up 3-0. 

Two plays later, freshman defensive back Tyris Harvey completed a pick six, returning the ball 29-yards for a touchdown to push the lead over the Governors to 10-0.  

The Panthers were led by a new quarterback on Saturday due to starting quarterback Otto Kuhns still being injured from last weekend’s contest against Southeast Missouri. 

As a result, Zach Weir made his first collegiate start, going 26-of-50 for 296 yards with four interceptions and one touchdown. Head coach Adam Cushing said that he was proud of what Weir did in his first start. 

“Evidently, it was a game day decision with Otto being banged up. Zach did a good job as he had to prepare himself with number one reps all week,” he said. “I’m proud of what he did in his first start. He had some turnovers but those are not all on him. At the end of the first half, we were trying to force a play to get a score before half.” 

The Panthers held on to a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Governors quickly answered back with a Brian Snead touchdown run after Johnathan Edwards intercepted Weir and returned it 54 yards to the 14-yard line, which put the Governors on top 14-13.  

With nine minutes to go in the second quarter, Panther running back Harrison Bey-Buie went on a two-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 20-14 lead.  

The momentum would continue to build for the Panthers with about two minutes to go until halftime as Colin Bohanek forced Governor quarterback Draylen Ellis to fumble, which was recovered by Jason Johnson at the 22-yard line.  

However, Edwards would once again pick off Weir, allowing the Governors to cash it in five plays later for a 33-yard touchdown pass from Draylen to Evans to put the Governors on top 28-20. The second quarter would end with Edwards intercepting Weir at the 2-yard line.  

The Govenors’ defense brought the pressure in the second half as Weir was sacked twice in third quarter and the Panthers did not score. The Panthers were 6-of-18 on third down conversions. Cushing said that the team had some missed assignments due to the pressure.  

“We had some missed assignments, and they brought some additional pressure in the second half,” he said. “Momentum is something that has to be built play-by-play during the game and they did that a good job of that up front in the second half.” 

The Govenors would find the only score of the third quarter after Ellis hit wide receiver Eugene Minter on a 59-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead over the Panthers to 35-20. 

The Governors finished Saturday’s contest with 491 yards of offense with Ellis leading the way with 278 passing yards and three touchdowns. 

The Panthers’ defense had three forced fumbles Saturday afternoon with Colin Bohanek leading the way with eight tackles. Blake Ruffin followed closely behind with seven. 

The Governors would have their last scoring drive of the game early in the fourth quarter due to the fourth Panther interception of the day. Snead was able to complete a 10-yard touchdown run, putting the Governors on top 42-20. 

The Panthers were intercepted three times in the fourth quarter, denying their chance to get back into the game. Their first and last scoring drive of the fourth quarter came with four minutes to go as Weir connected with wide receiver Isaiah Hill for a 15-yard touchdown pass, finalizing the 42-26 victory for the Governors.  

Hill was the top target of the day for the Panthers with ten catches for 140 yards while Jaelin Benefield led the rushing game with 61 yards. 

The Panthers will have a bye-week this week and will be back at O’Brien Field for their final game of the season against Murray State on Nov. 20. 


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