To use a basketball analogy, Eastern Illinois this season has resembled the Paul Westhead-era Loyola-Marymount team: They score points at an incredible pace, yet give them up just as fast.
The pattern continued Saturday night in Charleston as Murray State outscored the Panthers 48-41 in an Ohio Valley Conference shootout. The Racers (2-3 overall, 2-0 in the OVC) gashed EIU (1-5, 1-2) for 658 total yards with 449 coming on the ground. Eastern put up 643 total yards.
While Eastern is averaging 502 yards and 34 points per game this season, the Panthers are giving up an eye-popping 552.7 yards and 42.5 points per game.
"We’ve tried about everything. I don’t know I’ve ever given up 658 yards. Of course I don’t know if I’ve ever gained 643,” EIU head coach Kim Dameron told Justin Rust after the game. “It always comes down to doing what you are supposed to do and being able to make plays in space and right now we don’t make plays in space. The whole game is about making plays in space.”
Two Murray State backs had more than 100 yards rushing and a third had 79.
"I know the two running backs get the publicity and fame, but those front five played their hearts out,” Racer head coach Mitch Stewart told the Murray State News afterward.
With the score tied at 41, the Murray State combination of quarterback Drew Anderson and running back D.J. Penick rushed down the field in eight plays and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard run by Penick with just 26 seconds remaining.
Penick, a Highland Park High School graduate, ran for a career-high 180 yards and three touchdowns. Penick scored three TDs total in 2017.
Showing grit on offense, Eastern drove 76 yards in five plays to tie the game at the 3:07 mark of the fourth quarter. After a first-down completion to freshman receiver Teriq Phillips, EIU quarterback Jonathan Brantley was injured while running for no gain.
Brantley, a transfer from Tulane, had earlier replaced Harry Woodbery, Saturday's starter. Brantley had thrown for 328 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 49 yards.
With Brantley injured, Harry Woodbery--a transfer who played for Eastern offensive coordinator Scott Parr at a Texas junior college last season--re-entered the game.
Woodbery connected with senior Aaron Gooch for a 22-yard gain. Jamal Scott, another junior college transfer, then broke off a 35-yard run for a touchdown. Senior Nick Bruno's point-after tied the game.
The Eastern scoring drive took just 74 seconds, giving potential momentum to the Panthers.
But, that momentum didn't last.
Murray State scored the game-winner after starting on its own 25-yard line. It took the Racers just two plays--a 14-yard by Anderson and a 37-yarder by Rodney Castille--to move the ball to the Eastern 24. Two Penick rushes later and Murray State had 10 more yards; the Racers worked on running the clock down and forcing Eastern into calling its timeouts.
From there, Murray State used three runs to set up a first-and-goal from the Panther two-yard-line. Like a basket made in the waning seconds and an entire court to cover, Penick's TD run left Eastern with little time and little hope of a comeback with 75 yards required for a touchdown.
After three straight incompletions, the Panthers faced fourth-and-10. The game ended after Eastern tried a series of laterals that failed and the clock ran out.
Murray State won its second consecutive OVC game and has its best start in league play since 2013.
Hollins hot streak
Eastern wide receiver Alexander Hollins continues to shine in his senior season. Hollins caught 10 balls for 132 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Mississippi native has 53 catches for 733 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. Hollins has caught at least two touchdowns in four of the Panthers' six games.
5 Stats That Stood Out
4 – Tackles by Murray State defensive end Kenney Wooten, all for loss (2 TFLs, 2 sacks)
8 – Times Murray State entered the red zone and eight times the Racers scored
115 – Rushing yards by Jamal Scott in his first career EIU start
322 – Combined rushing yards by Murray State's D.J. Penick (180) and Rodney Castille (142)
401 – Combined rushing yards by Penick, Castille, and Drew Anderson (79). The Racer trio scored five rushing TDs in the game.
Eastern Illinois travels to Alabama to face nationally ranked Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks have not lost an OVC game since 2013.