In his first season as Eastern Illinois head football coach, Adam Cushing has a roster with a group of only 10 seniors.
Youth has been a leading storyline as the Panthers (0-9 overall, 0-5 Ohio Valley Conference) work to develop the combined 50 freshmen and redshirt freshmen in the program.
“As coaches, our hearts have been a little broken for this group of seniors that haven’t gotten to experience success,” Cushing said. “I can’t be more thankful for that group. They haven’t had the senior year they wanted to have. But they’ve had the right attitude and have been great examples for this young football team.”
When the Panthers open the final month of their season Saturday in Nashville against Tennessee State (2-7, 1-4), Cushing wants all of his players to play like seniors.
“If everyone acts like this it’s their senior season and their last opportunity, we can really erase what we’ve done over the first couple of months during this last month of the season,” Cushing said. “We can make it a November to remember and send these seniors out the way they deserve to be sent out.”
Among the biggest senior contributors this season have been linebacker Joe Caputo (42 tackles), cornerback Corneliuss Page (team-high 10 pass breakups, two interceptions) and nose tackle Terrell Greer (six tackles for loss).
What does this game mean?
Saturday’s game against TSU (2-7) appears to be the Panthers’ best chance for a victory. They also have games remaining against Southeast Missouri (6-3) and Austin Peay (6-3).
News and notes
EIU leading tackler Dytarious Johnson (58 tackles) leads the team with 13 tackles for loss and four sacks this season. Johnson leads the OVC in tackles for loss and ranks 25th in the country. “I couldn’t be more proud of Dytarious,” Cushing said. “He has been truly exceptional.” … This week, Tennessee State senior wide receiver Chris Rowland was added to the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the best offensive player in the FCS. Rowland leads the nation in four categories – all-purpose yards per game (202), receiving yards (1,234), receiving yards per game (137.1) and receptions per game (9.9). … Cornellius Page ranks 16th nationally and first in the OVC in pass breakups (10) for a pass defense that has allowed less than 240 yards in four of its last six games. … Now in his 10th season at Tennessee State, Tigers head coach Rod Reed is 2-7 in his career against EIU, including last season’s 41-40 victory in Charleston, when EIU coughed up a 24-3 second-quarter lead.
Where can I find the game?
EIU’s 2 p.m. game at Tennessee State on Saturday will air ESPN-Plus. On radio, the broadcast can be heard online at WEIU.net/HitMix.