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

Eastern prepares for last home game of season against TSU Tigers

With a 16-10 win over the Lindenwood Lions, Eastern looks to keep that momentum going when they face off against Tennessee State University at O’Brien Stadium Saturday with a 12 p.m. kickoff.

Panthers’ Head Coach Chris Wilkerson talked about what adjustments he plans to make in terms of strategy for the upcoming match.

“It’s still Eastern Illinois versus Eastern Illinois,” Wilkerson said. “And, you know, the biggest thing is, we want to try to continue to improve every single week. I thought that we as a collective group played our best quarter of football; offense, defense and special teams all execute and firing on all cylinders in the first quarter Saturday, but as the game went on, for whatever reason, we weren’t able to sustain some drives offensively and finish some drives. So, lots of stuff to work on to clean up, and certainly, this week will present some new challenges with a very talented Tennessee State team coming to town.”

Freshman running back MJ Flowers (20) wants the team to finish strong as the Panthers have two games remaining in the regular season. (File)

Redshirt freshman running back MJ Flowers wants the team to finish strong against TSU as the season is winding down.

“We’re keeping our foot on the pedal,” Flowers said. “Finishing strong in November is always great, so trying to get a strong finish is what’s most important this season.”

Wilkerson was also harped on how the Panthers can maintain the same level of intensity in preparation for the Tigers on Eastern’s senior day.

“There’s a lot of things to play for this weekend,” Wilkerson said. “First of all, it’s senior day here for us. You know, we’ll celebrate 23 football playing seniors and one student assistant coach senior. Guys that have been committed to this program for a long time; it’s their last opportunity to play a home game as a collective team this year, and something that we’ve talked about is protecting our house and trying to prepare ourselves as best as possible. Coach Eddie George has done a good job at Tennessee State, and [we’ve] certainly improved as well, and now there’s an awful lot on the line.”

Along with Wilkerson, George is also in his second season in the head coaching position for their respective teams. TSU have an overall record of 6-3 and a conference record of 2-2 just like Eastern.

“They’ve got two good quarterbacks on offense, and they’ve got a very talented offensive line and skilled players all over the place on offense,” Wilkerson said about the Tigers. “The two running backs are very solid, and on defense, their secondary linebackers are extremely talented. He can run and hit, but up front their defensive line is as good as anybody we’ve seen all year. Terrell Allen leads the nation in sacks tackles for loss and forced fumbles. So, he’s somebody that we’ve got to, you know, have a heightened sense of awareness about where he’s at and everybody’s got to step up and do their job.”

Redshirt sophomore safety Kaelin Drakeford thinks the possibility of the Panthers advancing to playoffs is motivation for the Panthers.

“The focus is definitely turned up because we know we gotta win out for a chance at playoffs, so everyone is locked in,” Drakeford said. “That’s been the goal all season.”

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Phoenix Porter thinks the team has been ready for the possibility of making the playoffs as early as the previous offseason.

“It’s all about building that championship mindset during the offseason and the training before you’re able to go out there and perform,” Porter said.

Wilkerson touched on how Saturday’s game will be a challenge for the Panthers.

“We’re excited about the challenge, but [there are] a lot of things we got to work out between now and Saturday at 12:02,” Wilkerson said.

Besides a win, Porter is also hoping for a big crowd Saturday afternoon.

“Both teams have a lot on the line, in terms of playoffs, so I’m just hoping for a good environment,” Porter said.

Redshirt sophomore safety Blake Ruffin wants to send the seniors off with one last win in O’Brien Stadium as this is the last home game for the Panthers this season.

“It’s been a long four years for them here and a lot of ups and downs,” Ruffin said. “This has been one of the up years, so sending them out with one more win at home would be big.”

Senior kicker Stone Galloway will play his last home game at O’Brien Stadium as a collegiate athlete on Saturday afternoon. (File)

Senior kicker Stone Galloway touched on how meaningful it would be to get a win at O’Brien Stadium for the last time in his collegiate career.

“It’s going to be my last home game in O’Brien Stadium,” Galloway said. “It’s been a long five years, but I’m glad it was here, and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”

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.

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