Following last week’s promising win at Tennessee Tech, Eastern Illinois sputtered to a 22-6 loss at Murray State Saturday.
The loss dropped EIU to 1-5 on the season. Murray State evened its record at 2-2.
Though the teams are both members of the Ohio Valley Conference, the game did not count in the league standings since the OVC schedule was restructured when two teams left for another conference. Therefore, the Nov. 20 season finale and rematch of the two teams in Charleston will count in the standings.
“I asked the team to raise their hands if they thought that team was 16 points better than us, but the reality is they were on this day because we beat ourselves,” EIU head coach Adam Cushing said afterward. “You have to give them (Murray State) a ton of credit. They made the plays they needed to make.”
Here are three things Prairie State Pigskin learned from Saturday’s game.
- EIU’s offense struggled mightily
The Panthers did little on offense — even more so when starting quarterback Otto Kuhns left the game with an injury after being sacked.
EIU was a putrid 3-of-16 on third down and managed just 75 net rushing yards.
Kuhns — who also sustained an injury earlier in the season and sat out EIU’s game at FBS South Carolina — was only 4-for-10 for 37 yards while in the game.
Backup Chris Katrenick, who has also suffered from injury this fall, entered the game but had little success until the fourth quarter.
The Jacobs High School graduate who transferred to EIU from Duke completed only 1-of-his first 8 passes for five yards. Katrenick’s best play came on a 54-yard touchdown pass to receiver Arron Foulkes.
“I don’t think we helped him (Katrenick) a great deal offensive line-wise, right when he walked into the game. Running back-wise I don’t think we were playing our best,” Cushing said.
Foulkes had a career-high 123 receiving yards on six receptions.
“Arron is one of those guys that the moment’s never too big for,” Cushing said.
Katrenick also had a 14-yard scramble for a first down on a third-down play. Katrenick engineered a final drive in which he threw for 56 yards and ran for five, but EIU turned the ball over on downs at the Murray State 14-yard line.
Kuhns’ injury continues a string of ailments that have struck EIU hard. Running back Jaelin Benefield and receiver Isaiah Hill — both expected to be key starters — have yet to play this fall.
2. Bad penalties continue
EIU has been bitten numerous times by penalties this season — many of the personal foul variety.
Eastern was whistled for six penalties Saturday, the majority of which were personal foul calls.
The first came when freshman Michael Young nailed the Murray State punt returner, who was deemed defenseless; the second was a roughing-the-passer on freshman safety Jordan Vincent that gave the Racers a first down after what appeared to be a third-down stop for EIU.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Cushing said. “We had the late hit when the defense is getting off the field.”
Eastern defensive back Russell Dandy was later disqualified from the game on a targeting call.
After Eastern scored its touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Panthers appeared to have converted a two-point attempt as Harrison Bey-Buie took a delayed handoff and raced into the end zone. However, a holding penalty erased the points and Katrenick’s pass on the following attempt was incomplete.
Midway through the fourth quarter, EIU punter Logen Neidhardt got away a 52-yard kick that the Panthers covered fairly well only to have a 15-yard late hit flag on freshman Brock Griffin tacked on.
3. A Dandy day — until it ended abruptly
Junior defensive back Russell Dandy intercepted two passes — including one in the end zone to deny Murray State a scoring opportunity — and recorded seven solo tackles, one for a loss. Dandy also forced a fumble.
However, Dandy was ejected from the game on a targeting penalty — called on a video review — with 7:27 remaining.
“Russell is one of those guys you see. He plays with speed, plays with violence,” Cushing said. “Russell has practiced so well. Russell shows up every day and he plays at full speed every play.”
News & notes
EIU linebackers Jason Johnson and Colin Bohanek each had 12 tackles . . . Panther kicker Stone Galloway missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. The sophomore has missed his last three attempts and has only made 2-of-6 tries this season . . . Murray State kicker Aaron Baum nailed all of three of his field goal attempts . . . In addition to its three sacks, Murray State was credited with six quarterback hurries.
Eastern enters its bye week and will return to action Saturday, Oct. 16 by hosting UT-Martin in an Ohio Valley Conference game.