Football team loses home opener to Mocs


Rob Le Cates

Jonah O’Brien, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, runs through hole found in the University of Tennesee- Chattanooga Mocs’ defensive line during the Panther’s first home game of the 2022 season on Saturday evening at O’Brien Field. The Panthers lost 38-20 to the Mocs. O’Brien completed 18-of-28 pass attempts, passing for a total of 183 yards with 2 touchdowns.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

The Eastern football team lost its home opener 38-20 to No. 10 UT-Chattanooga Saturday evening as it could not recover from missed opportunities throughout the game.

The first quarter started out ideally for the Panthers as the first drive of the game for the Mocs resulted in Panther linebacker Colin Bohanek picking off Moc quarterback Preston Hutchinson at the 27-yard line.

Bohanek said that being able to help the Panthers with the energy of the game so early on was big.

“Obviously, you know, it’s always a linebacker’s dream to go out and get a pick, but I just go into my game plan and get into my right spot and the ball popped up and instincts took over and it’s a big start to the game. Bringing the momentum was huge,” Bohanek said.

Bohanek led the Panthers defensively with 10 tackles.

The Panthers celebrate after intercepting the University of Tennessee- Chattanooga Mocs’ first drive Saturday evening at O’Brien Field. The ball was intercepted by Colin Bohanek (45), a sophomore linebacker. The Panthers lost 38-20 to the Mocs. (Rob Le Cates)

Coach Chris Wilkerson said that the interception by Bohanek was great but that the Panthers missed too many vital opportunities against the Mocs.

“It was a great play by him. We certainly talked all week about how to take the football away, turnover margin is something that we are going to preach every single week and so that did give us an opportunity to get off on a better start,” Wilkerson said. “We had too many missed opportunities for us as a team today to win against a quality opponent like that.”

The missed opportunities came in the form of interceptions, fumbles, sacks, and penalties. The biggest thing that hurt the Panthers was that starting quarterback Jonah O’Brien was sacked six times during the game.

One of the sacks came near the very end of the fourth quarter. When O’Brien was sacked, he also fumbled, allowing the Mocs to recover the ball at the EIU 14-yard line. The very next drive for the Mocs was a 14-yard rushing touchdown to put the Mocs up 38-20, ultimately sealing the win for the Mocs.

O’Brien was 18-of-28, passing for 183 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Wilkerson said that losing one of the offensive linemen due to injury did not help the situation.

“We will just continue to work on fundamentals, that’s the biggest thing, you know we certainly did lose one of our offensive linemen at some point in the second half. We are going to continue to work on our fundamentals and give him a chance to hopefully stay upright,” Wilkerson said.

The University of Tennessee- Chattanooga Mocs capitalize on an offensive lapse, resulting in the Panther’s quarterback, Jonah O’Brien (6) being sacked Saturday evening at O’Brien Field. O’Brien was sacked 6 times, completed 18-of-28 pass attempts, and passed for a total of 183 yards with 2 touchdowns. (Rob Le Cates)

The Panthers did have a lead going into the second quarter after O’Brien connected with Nile Hill on a 31-yard touchdown pass, putting the Panthers up 10-7. The momentum would not continue, however, as the Panthers trailed 14-10 at halftime and would not be able to come back.

The Panthers were able to come back from a 21-13 deficit going into the fourth quarter. First, O’Brien passed for an 18-yard touchdown to Anthony Manaves but it was not counted because of a holding penalty, pushing the Panthers back to the UTC 16-yard line.

On the very next play, O’Brien connected with DeAirious Smith on a 16-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 28-20.

Markenzy Pierre led the rushing game for the Panthers with 66 yards on 17 carries. Pierre said that the missed opportunities made a difference in the game.

“I feel like we played hard, but overall, offensively, we just left a lot of opportunities out. We just didn’t execute and ultimately that was the difference,” Pierre said.

Pierre said that before the next game, the Panthers need to pay attention to the little things in order to do better.

“We just need to lock in, do a little bit more attention to detail, take advantage of those opportunities when we have them and capitalize when they’re there,” Pierre said.

Wilkerson said that the team is not pleased with their performance but that they look to greatly improve when conference play begins in two weeks.

“Well certainly are disappointed, obviously, with the end result but there were some good things that we showed early on in the game,” Wilkersons said. “We certainly didn’t finish how we wanted to finish but as I told the guys at the end, it should hurt, losing is not going to be an acceptable thing for us going forward but our whole focus has been on the Ohio Valley Conference football games. Last week was an opportunity to improve, this week was an opportunity to improve, this next week is certainly an opportunity to improve while it is a traveling trophy game, but our season will be defined by those five games that have OVC next to them.”

The Panthers will head to Normal, IL, next Saturday to take on Illinois State in the Mid-America Classic at 6:30 p.m.

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