EIU closes out season with rare second fall game with a very familiar opponent

Eastern Illinois closes out its season by hosting Murray State at O’Brien Field Saturday in Charleston. (photo courtesy Sandy King, EIU Athletics)

Eastern Illinois closes out its 2021 fall season with a familiar opponent — one it will have faced three times in the last eight months once Saturday’s game with Murray State kicks off.

EIU, 1-9 overall and 1-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference, hosts Murray State, 5-5 overall and 2-3 in the league. Saturday’s game will count in the OVC standings.

The two teams met Oct. 2 in Murray, Ken. with the Racers posting a 22-6 victory in a game that was listed as a non-conference contest because of the unbalanced league since the departures of Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State this past off-season.

In the conference-only spring schedule, Murray State defeated EIU 41-27. That game, played on March 28, also took place in Kentucky.

“It’s certainly unusual,” EIU head coach Adam Cushing said during Tuesday’s OVC Zoom call. “They’ve (Murray State) obviously gotten our number a couple of times.”

The last time the Panthers played an opponent more than once in a season came during the OVC title-winning season of 2013. EIU twice defeated Tennessee State, first 34-16 in Nashville during the regular season and then 51-10 at O’Brien Field in FCS playoffs.

Sending off the seniors

Despite its youth-oriented roster, EIU’s Senior Day is always unique to Cushing.

“That’s been our focus,” Cushing said. “I always think it’s special when you play that last game of the season at home.”

According to EIU’s official game notes, 14 seniors/graduate students will be honored prior to kickoff.

“We haven’t had the season we would have liked, that’s the obvious truth,” Cushing said, “but we have the opportunity to have a different taste in our mouth after Saturday.”

News & notes

Freshman Harrison Bey-Buie (pictured above) is EIU’s leading rusher with 432 yards on 120 attempts. Bey Buie is the second consecutive freshman to lead the Panthers in that category during a fall season since teammate Jaelin Benefield accomplished the feat in 2019. Benefield, now a sophomore, missed most of this fall with injuries yet still is second among EIU’s rushing leaders . . . EIU ranks last in team rushing among the seven OVC teams . . . Despite playing in only four games, junior Isaiah Hill is tied for the team with 26 receptions. Freshman Arron Foulkes also has 26 catches — but in 10 games . . . Linebackers Jason Johnson and Colin Bohanek rank 1-2 among the OVC’s leading tacklers. Johnson, a sophomore from Rich Central High School, averages 9.9 tackles per game; Bohanek, a freshman from Marist High School, average 7.9 stops per game. Freshman safety Jordan Vincent is tied for 14th among conference leaders with six tackles a game.

Where to watch

Eastern Illinois hosts Murray State. Kickoff is at noon. The game is on ESPN3. The radio broadcast is offered on Charleston-based Hit Mix 88.9 FM.

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