Former offensive line coaches put their building blocks to the test in OVC

A former offensive line coach at Northwestern, Adam Cushing is in his second season as Eastern Illinois head coach. (photo courtesy of Sandy King, EIU Athletics)

Adam Cushing and Dewayne Alexander are both former offensive line coaches, so they share a few traits.

“I think offensive line coaches, by nature, have to be disciplined people,” said Alexander, the head coach at Tennessee Tech. “You’re detail oriented. They expect toughness and expect (players) to be smart. Those are all great things to commit yourself to.”

Now as head coaches who are building programs in the Ohio Valley Conference, Cushing and Alexander share a similar mindset.

“There’s no shortcuts,” Alexander said. “(Adam) is trying to build it the right way.”

Cushing, in his second season as the Eastern Illinois head coach, and Alexander will meet Sunday in Charleston when the Panthers (0-3) host the Golden Eagles (1-2) at 1 p.m.

In his third season at TTU, Alexander has guided his teams to an 8-18 record.

Cushing, is his second season, is 1-14. The Panthers will start true freshman Otto Kuhns for the second week in a row at quarterback.

Alexander sees the building blocks that his colleague is trying to put in place.

“Their guys play hard,” he said. “They play physical. They’re competitive. Anytime you build something the right way, it does not happen overnight. It takes time.“

Last weekend’s 21-20 loss at Tennessee State stung for the Panthers, who took the lead with less than a minute left.

“We keep inching closer and closer and closer,” Cushing said. “I’m kind of tired of saying that, to be quite honest.”

The Panthers led, 17-3, at halftime before sputtering in the third quarter, allowing TSU to close the deficit to 17-15.

“We’ve got to respond better coming out of the locker room,” Cushing said. “That’s on us as coaches.”

Ground gains

Led by sophomore Jaelin Benefield’s career-best 120-yard game, the Panthers had an impressive day on the ground vs. TSU.

Kuhns, making his first start, ran for three first downs. Freshman running back Jordan Smith contributed 19 yards on six carries.

“It was being simple,” Cushing said of the approach. “Do the things our O-line knows how to do well and then get the ball to Jaelin. He’s got a ton of heart. He runs hard every time he touches the ball. You mix in Jordan Smith with him. Jordan was giving us some terrific effort, so you’ve got a nice 1-2 punch there.”

Spring break destination

Alexander said Tennessee Tech is currently on spring break, but he couldn’t promise his players a trip to warmer weather.

“I told our guys instead of going to Florida, we get an all-expense paid trip to Charleston, Illinois,” he said. “Maybe Adam will plant a couple palm trees out there somewhere for us near O’Brien Field.”

News and notes

Sophomore linebacker Jason Johnson leads EIU with 29 tackles and ranks second in the OVC with 9.7 stops per game. … Benefield ranks eighth in the conference with 55.3 rushing yards a game. … Wide receiver/kick returner Matt Judd of EIU has the second-best all-purpose yards average in the conference with 100. … Tennessee Tech is at the bottom of the league in total offense with 261 yards a game. … The Golden Eagles rank fourth in total defense and are third-best against the pass.

Where to find the game

EIU’s home game against Tennessee Tech will kick off at 1 p.m. on ESPN+ online. The radio broadcast is available at

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