Eastern Illinois Knocks Off 18th Ranked Eastern Kentucky

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Published on October 28 2012 12:48 pm
Last Updated on October 28 2012 12:48 pm
Written by Wayne Moran

Eastern Illinois moved into a tie for first place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings as the Panthers picked up a road win Saturday afternoon, 24-7, at No. 18 Eastern Kentucky.

The Panthers improved to 5-3 overall, 4-1 in the OVC beating EKU for the first time since 2006.  The Colonels fell to 6-3 overall, 4-2 in the OVC.

With three Walter Payton Award candidates in the game it was Eastern Illinois defense that made a statement in the contest as they limited the Colonels to only 81 total rushing yards while collecting five sacks.

“Our defense played great today,” said head coach Dino Babers.  “Defensive coordinator Kim McCloud and his staff had a great game plan for stopping a good Eastern Kentucky offense. They were able to contain Matt Denham after he had a big day against us last year.”

EIU limited to Denham to only 95 yards rushing and one score at the end of the second quarter.  Denham was EKU’s Payton Award candidate in the game.

EIU’s two candidates in the game were Jimmy Garoppolo and Erik Lora who connected for the final score of the game.  Garoppolo was 32-of-51 for 266 yards with a score while throwing two interceptions.  Lora finished with ten catches for 97 yards.  His streak of seven straight games with 100-yards receiving was snapped but Lora did break the OVC single season reception record as he now has 93 catches passing Samford’s Efrem Hill.

EIU had two early chances to put points on the board but turned the ball over following a muffed punt by the Colonels on the first drive of the game.  EIU’s second turnover was a Sam Hendricks fumble inside the five yard line that would have given the Panthers an early lead.  EIU lost the turnover battle for the day 4-1.

“Our defense allowed zero points on turnovers today,” Babers added.  “We knew coming into this game that we were going to have to take some shots and make some things happen.  Some of those resulted in turnovers.  EKU is a great team at home, they are 17-3 under Coach (Dean) Hood and now we have one of those wins.”

The Panthers got on the board first with a Jake Walker short touchdown that capped an 8-play 41 yard drive with 36 seconds left in the first quarter.  Walker finished with 119 yards rushing his third straight game over 100 yards.

EKU tied the game at 7-7 with 25 seconds left in the half on a Denham run.  The score was set up by a 29-yard completion from T.J. Pryor to Tyrone Goard.  Pryor who came into the game ranked third in the FCS in passing efficiency was 19-of-34 for 203 yards with one interception.  Goard had seven catches for 118 yards.

The Panthers opened the second half driving the length of the field for a Taylor Duncan 1-yard run.  Cameron Berra tacked on a 41-yard field goal with 6:57 left to play in the third to make it a two score game.

EIU’s defense was able to keep EKU at bay the remainder of the game as the lone scoring chance down the stretch was a missed field goal b y Luke Pray with 7:05 left in the game.

That defensive effort was led by Pete Houlihan, LeQuince McCall and Robert Haynes all with double figure tackles.  Jerone Williams added eight tackles with a sack while Artavious Dowdell was disruptive with seven tackles and a sack.

The Panthers final touchdown of the game came with 12:08 remaining as Garoppolo hit Lora for the score.

The win was the first on the road for the Panthers this season as they prepare to play at Tennessee Tech next week.

“We are not going to talk about the Tennessee Tech game and the OVC race with the players right now,” said Babers.  “Our focus today was to get a win on the road against one of the best teams in our conference.  I wanted people at home when they are watching the score ticker to see that EIU picked up a road win today over the No. 18 team in the country.”

The win over No. 18 Eastern Kentucky was the Panthers first over a ranked team since the 2009 season when they won at No. 12 Jacksonville State, 28-20.