The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Panthers hope to improve on little things against Falcons

Wide receiver Justin Bowick Jr. (1) says that the team has a chip on their shoulder after finishing last season with a 2-9 overall record. (File)

Eastern will face Bowling Green State University on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. CST.

With the 27-0 win against Indiana State last week, the Panthers are looking forward to getting another win under their belt when they go on the road again this Saturday against the Falcons.

Head Coach Chris Wilkerson has a game plan and strategy for the Panthers’ upcoming opponent this Saturday.

“For us, again, it won’t change a whole lot,” Wilkerson said. “It’s usually every week gonna be about us and how we can execute and how we can keep the balls off the ground offensively. And how we can take what they give us, how we can eliminate explosive plays defensively and how we can take the football away and how our special teams could continue to be special.”

Wilkerson also addressed the key aspects the team has been emphasizing during practices leading up to Saturday’s game.

“Offensively again, we got to take care of the football,” Wilkerson said. “Their defenses kind of present some unique challenges. They’re long and athletic at level two and three linebackers and secondary. They’re not afraid to play some man to man… So, there will be a little bit of a unique challenge for the offensive front to be able to be on the same page as they move in and out of their fronts.”

Junior quarterback Pierce Holley said the offense has been improving throughout the week.

“We’ve been cleaning up a lot of the little stuff,” Holley said. “We’re just keeping balls off the ground and making everything cleaner and sharper and faster. We’re improving on all the little things that end up being big things.”

Sophomore wide receiver Justin Bowick Jr. said he’s excited to play against the Falcons.

“It’s a good opportunity to show what we got against a higher level,” Bowick Jr. said. “Being 2-9 last year, everybody has a chip on their shoulder this year, and we’re working really hard this season.”

Wilkerson wants the team to only worry about themselves and focus on their craft on Saturday.

“We want to keep the balls off the ground,” Wilkerson said. “We want to take the football away, so we want to win the turnover battle. We need to win the explosives battle again. The special teams must be very special, but again, most importantly this week, it’s just about us. It’s not about who we’re playing, where we’re playing, and the level of the team that we’re playing. It’s just about us focusing on ourselves and trying to get a little bit better.”

Junior linebacker Elijawah Tolbert said the team is well prepared for Saturday.

“I want to see our defense continue to force turnovers,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert also said that the biggest improvement he’s seen is the chemistry that the team has built in a short time.

“Everything starts with the chemistry,” Tolbert said. “Being able to look to the guy next to me and know that he’s going to play just as hard as I am and know that we got each other, I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Junior defensive back Tyris Harvey said he feels confident with the team’s improvements.

“Everybody is just more disciplined and in tune, and we all connect on the same level,” Harvey said.

Wilkerson also said that this will be a challenging game for the Panthers.

“So, we have a tremendous challenge this week going on the road against Bowling Green State University,” Wilkerson said. “That was a bowl participant last year in the postseason. They’ve had a lot of roster turnover. They’ve added about 20 transfers to the roster, but they’ve got a very talented physical offensive line, big tight ends, very skilled on the perimeter, two very good quarterbacks and four running backs that are very productive.”

Bowling Green University finished with a 6-7 record for the 2022 season.

The Falcons lost their first game of the 2023 season against the Liberty University Flames 24-34.

“Their special teams were outstanding last year,” Wilkerson said about the Falcons. “They were top 25 in the country… I think the biggest thing that I took away from their first game was they were down 24 to nothing on the road, and the fact that they hung in there, gathered some momentum and got it back to 24 to 17; it could have even been even closer than that… So, it says a lot about where they’re at as a team. I know we’re gonna have our hands full.”

The Sports Staff can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.
Duane Carter
Duane Carter, Sports Reporter
Duane Carter is a junior sports media relations major. This is his first year at The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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