Eastern Illinois saved its best defensive effort since 2009 for Saturday’s season finale.
The Panthers stifled Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Kentucky, 24-0, for their first shutout victory since a 31-0 triumph in September 2009 against Indiana State. In the second half, EIU (6-5 overall, 4-4 OVC) limited the Colonels to 19 yards of offense and no first downs.
For the game, EIU’s defense limited EKU (3-8, 2-6) to 152 total yards and never allowed the Colonels to enter the red zone.
The Panthers, who snapped a three-game losing streak, leaned heavily on their running game and piled up 304 yards on the ground to lock down a winning season.
Senior running back Devin Church led Eastern with 177 yards on 25 carries. His big day was punctuated by a 68-yard run in the fourth quarter. The impressive performance put church over the 1,000-yard plateau for the season at 1,066.
As a team, Eastern averaged 5.2 yards a carry and took advantage of four turnovers.
Despite listing juniors Mitch Kimble and Austin Green as its top two quarterbacks entering the games, Eastern gave Mattoon native Jared Pilson, a sophomore who began the season as a wide receiver, his first career start.
Pilson’s 3-yard run in the second quarter gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead. He rushed for 41 yards and finished 8-for-11 passing for an additional 127 yards.
After turning the ball over 15 times in the past three weeks, Eastern only had one lost fumble against EKU.
Players Of The Game
Despite suffering a late-game leg injury, junior linebacker Nick Horne piled up eight tackles, four tackles for loss , two sacks and a forced fumble. … Sophomore safety Tray Mitchell, a converted safety, grabbed his first career interception. … Devin Church rushed for 177 yards to pass 1,000 for his career in Charleston.
By The Numbers
3 – Seasons since EIU has had a 1,000-yard rusher before Church accomplished the feat. Shepard Little had 1,551 yards in 2013.
7 – Total first downs for Eastern Kentucky in the game.
7.1 – Yards per carry against EKU for senior running back Devin Church.
9 – EIU players who had at least a half of a tackle for loss against EKU.
44.4 – Completion percentage for EKU starting quarterback Tyler Swafford. He was 8-for-18 passing.
66.1 – Completion percentage in the victory for EIU sophomore quarterback Jared Pilson, who started for the Panthers.
EIU opens the 2017 season on Sept. 2 at Indiana State, restarting a rivalry against Sycamores in Terre Haute.