Panthers seeking to whitewash rough start to season

Panthers seeking to whitewash rough start to season
Eastern Illinois hosts Indiana State in its Saturday home opener. (photo courtesy of Sandy King, EIU)

Eastern Illinois will wear an all-white jersey and pant combination Saturday when its opens its home schedule.  EIU notes this will be the third different uniform combination of the young season. Head coach Kim Dameron also wants it to be a winning combination.

"We did not play very well at Illinois State, of course they had a lot to do with that. That's a very good football team. Very physical on both sides of the ball," Dameron said referring to EIU's 48-10 loss to the Redbirds.

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Like Illinois State, Indiana State--Saturday's opponent--plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.  The Sycamores are 1-1; Eastern is 0-2.

"They're big, physical up front just like all the Missouri Valley teams," Dameron said. "They've got a new quarterback (Jalil Kilpatrick) that is extremely talented as a runner and getting better as a thrower."

While he and his staff have been pouring over film of Indiana State's first two games (a blowout win over Quincy College and a loss at Louisville), Dameron places his main focus on his team.

"We'd better make the improvements that we need to make," Dameron said, "and we've got plenty of things to work on this week.

"Defensively we got our secondary exploited again, but we also got exploited up front. We got out of our gaps and tried to do things that were not our job at times. We gave up some big runs and big plays."

Regional rivalry

Saturday will mark the 86th meeting between the two programs. In a series dating back to 1901, the Panthers lead the all-time series 43-38-4 and have won six straight dating back to 2005.

EIU won last season's meeting 22-20 with a last-second touchdown in Terre Haute. Indiana State's last victory came in 2004 with a 33-30 overtime win in Charleston.

Three key matchups

  1. Line play:  As is usually the case, the team that controls both sides of the ball likely wins the game. As Dameron noted, size and physicality are two of Indiana State's strengths.
  2. EIU secondary vs. ISU receivers:  The Panthers have given up too many explosive plays the past two Saturdays. That has to change for Eastern to post a victory.
  3. EIU running game vs. ISU defense:  The Panthers need to establish their running game to make the Air Raid effective. Look for junior college transfer Jamal Scott to get more carries this weekend.

The Game

Eastern Illinois (0-2) hosts Indiana State (1-1), 6 p.m. Saturday at O'Brien Field. The game is on ESPN+.

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