A year ago, Eastern Illinois pulled out a last-second victory to open the season at Indiana State. First-year Sycamores' head coach Curt Mallory failed to win a game and finished the year 0-11.
My, how things have changed. Mallory's team steamrolled EIU 55-41 Saturday night at O'Brien Field in Charleston. Indiana State (2-1) gained 535 total yards, 326 coming on the ground. Eastern fell to 0-3.
Indiana State's Ja'Quan Keys rushed for a career-high 232 yards and four touchdowns. Keys, a 5-foot-10 senior, scored on runs of 43, 20, 4 and 3 yards.
Ryan Boyle, a transfer who spent three years at Iowa but never appeared in a game, made his first career start. The Indiana State quarterback completed 13-of-18 attempts for 209 yards. He also rushed for 30 yards and a touchdown.
The win snapped a 13-game losing streak to FCS opponents. Indiana State had not won in Charleston since 2004.
Eastern senior receiver Alexander Hollins caught a career-high 10 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. The Yazoo City, Miss. native has gone over 100 yards receiving in two of the three games this season.
Panther quarterback Jonathan Brantley passed for a career-best 443 yards and four touchdowns. The Tulane transfer who grew up in Houston completed 37 of 49 passes.
Brantley connected with nine different receivers. Aaron Gooch (10), James Sheehan (6) and Teriq Phillips (6) all had single-game receiving highs.
Special teams struggles
Eastern struggled on special teams for much of the game. The Panthers repeatedly gave up big gains on kickoffs. In fact, Indiana State averaged 35.6 yards per return. Moreover, the Sycamores had a 99-yard touchdown nullified by a penalty. EIU had both a field goal and extra point blocked.
Senior punter Nick Bruno replaced sophomore Matt Severino as EIU's kicker during the game. Before missing all of last season with an injury suffered while warming up prior to last year's game at Indiana State, Bruno was Eastern's first-string kicker. The Florida native has the third most career points by an EIU kicker.
Flags on display
After committing just a combined nine penalties in their first two games, an old bugaboo returned for the Panthers. Eastern committed 14 penalties for 82 yards Saturday at home.
5 Key Stats that Stood Out
0 – Turnovers forced by Eastern Illinois this season
6.8 –Per-yard rushing average by Indiana State's Ja'Quan Keys
11 – Consecutive passes completed by EIU quarterback Johnathan Brantely to open the game
31 – Number of players in EIU history with more than 1,000 receiving yards now that Alexander Hollins has reached the feat
96 –Yard kickoff return for a touchdown by EIU's Matt Reyna
Eastern begins Ohio Valley Conference play by hosting Tennessee State. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.