Playing in the city in which the Wright Brothers designed and built their famous airplane, the Eastern Illinois offense failed to take flight in a 17-10 non-conference loss to Dayton.
“It’s the same story over and over again,” third-year EIU head coach Adam Cushing said in the postgame Zoom.
Costly penalties and turnovers again bit the Panthers.
For the fourth straight season, EIU is off to an 0-3 start. Meanwhile, Dayton (1-0), a member of the non-scholarship FCS Pioneer League, posted its third win in the last four games over a scholarship conference team.
Dayton is 9-2 against Ohio Valley Conference members, the league in which EIU plays.
Here are three things that Prairie State Pigskin learned from Saturday’s game:
- Eastern’s offense remains stagnant.
Over the past nine quarters, the Panthers have produced just 17 points — including the last seven that came with only 19 seconds left in Saturday’s loss.
“We’ve not doing what we need to do, and that starts with me, ” Cushing said. “It’s not all on one person. Offensive football requires all 11 guys and the coaches. It’s disappointing to say the least.”
For the second straight game, former Algonquin resident and Jacobs High School star Chris Katrenick started at quarterback for the Panthers. The redshirt sophomore and Duke transfer struggled completing 12-of-27 throws for 129 yards and an interception.
“It’s not all his fault,” Cushing said of the offensive woes.
Freshman Otto Kuhns, who started the season opener at Indiana State before being sidelined with an injury, replaced Katrenick late in the third quarter.
“We felt he might give us a spark,” Cushing said.
Kuhns twice drove the Panthers deep into Dayton territory. EIU came up short on a fourth-and-goal play when Tyler Hamilton dropped a pass in the end zone with just under five minutes remaining.
“When the ball gets put in there, it has to be caught,” Cushing said of several Panther miscues in the passing game.
2. The third quarter proved to be the turning point.
EIU held a 3-0 lead at halftime, courtesy of a 36-yard field goal by Stone Galloway and a 40-yard miss by Dayton kicker Sam Webster.
Dayton drove 72 yards in 14 plays to open the second half and stake itself to a lead the Flyers would never relinquish. Quarterback Jack Cook capped the drive a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Jake Chisholm.
The TD came after Cook faked to the right and the EIU defense bit, leaving Chisholm wide open in the end zone.
Chisolm, a preseason third team All-American, accounted for 36 yards on the Dayton scoring drive.
Eastern then committed a costly turnover when Hamilton fumbled after a 12-yard catch.
Five plays later, Cook scored on a touchdown run and the Flyers upped their lead to 14-3.
Eastern ran just five offensive plays in a quarter dominated by Dayton.
3. Turnovers again tell much of the story.
Although EIU finished the game with more offensive yards than Dayton (301-266), the Flyers forced two turnovers while the Panthers garnered none.
“We’re doing the things that losing teams do,” Cushing said.
In three games this season, Eastern has committed seven turnovers and forced just one. The Panthers have yet to intercept an opposing quarterback. EIU has only one sack on the season.
News & notes
Dayton played its first game in 658 days — other than a spring scrimmage against Ashland — since it beat Butler 51-38 on Nov. 23, 2019 . . . Dayton has scored in 488 straight games, which stands as the all-time FCS record. The last team to shut out the Flyers was Marshall on Oct. 16, 1976 . . . EIU’s lone touchdown came when Kuhns found Robbie Lofton for a touchdown strike with 19 seconds left in the game . . . Kuhns — an Ohio native — passed for 60 yards and led the Panthers with 42 rushing yards, 39 coming on one play. Lofton hauled in five passes for 56 yards.
EIU hosts rival Illinois State in the annual Mid-America Classic Saturday, Sept. 18. Kickoff is 6 p.m.