EIU Scores Two Touchdowns in Spring Game, Holliday Signs With Jets

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Published on April 29 2013 2:14 pm
Last Updated on April 29 2013 2:22 pm
Written by Millie Lange

CHARLESTON, Ill. – Eastern Illinois defense came to play on Saturday afternoon as they scored two touchdowns while forcing five turnovers during the offense versus defense Spring Game at O’Brien Field.  EIU will now turn its focus to summer work outs and the season opener August 31 at San Diego State.

The defense did not allow the offense to score on the first six possessions of the game and when the offense finally broke through on the score board it was on a 30-yard field goal by Taylor Kerr that trickled over the cross bar.

The defense scored twice with the first coming by Kamu Grugier-Hill after he scooped up a fumble and raced 25 yards for a score.  Nick Beard had the second defensive score on a 35-yard interception return for touchdown.  Grugier-Hill finished with four tackles while Beard had five tackles.

Dino Fanti was one of two Panthers defensive players to record a pair of sacks.  Fanti had seven tackles including his two sacks for 12 yards.  Clinton Simpkins added two sacks for 11 yards as part of his nine tackle day.  LeQuince McCall, Antonio Taylor, Adam Gristick, Pat Wertz, Jake McNair and John Wurm all had sacks during the 191 play scrimmage.

“It was fun to play on defense today,” said Fanti.  “When you play against our offense they want to snap the ball and move quickly.  When the defense has guys making plays you just feed off that.  Our energy level was high today and we will only keep improving.”

The offense did find its rhythm midway through the scrimmage as Jimmy Garoppolo found Keiondre Gober and Erik Lora for several big plays.  Garoppolo passed for 313 yards going 25-of-47.  He had a pair of 4-yard touchdown passes to Gober but was picked off twice.  Gober hauled in nine passes for 119 yards.  Lora had eight catches for 103 yards.

Back-up quarterback Ben Krol was 16-of-28 for 81 yards but was also picked off twice.  Jourdan Wickliffe, Pete Houlihan and Joe Campagna joined Nick Beard with interceptions for the defense.

“The defense had a good day.  They made some big plays,” said Garoppolo.  “I thought we picked it up midway through the scrimmage and towards the end of the game.  We were able to hit a couple of deep balls but that is an area we can keep improving on.  We had a good spring trying to get new guys involved with their roles on the offense.”

All spring long Coach Dino Babers has talked about becoming a more physical football team.  The Panthers had an emphasis on grinding out some drives during the Saturday scrimmage.  Shepard Little carried the ball a team-high 17 times for 105 yards including a one-yard touchdown.  A.J. Woodson had 54 yards and Bobby Huey had 87 yards.

“I’m really proud of the guys on defense today,” Babers said following the scrimmage.  “They really stepped up.  All spring long we have been working on individual improvement and getting better.  I thought we had that.  We have made progress in becoming a bigger, faster, stronger team and I credit that to the off-season program our strength staff has implemented.  This spring was good because the players and coaches had a better understanding of each other.  Everybody should understand the structure we have and understand their role so we can take care of business.”

EIU will have final exams on campus this week.  The regular season opens August 31 at San Diego State.  The home opener is Sept. 14 against Illinois State.  Season tickets for the 2013 season are now on sale by calling 217-581-2106 or online at www.eiupanthertickets.com.

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Eastern Illinois defensive lineman Roosevelt Holliday was one of 13 free agents signed by the New York Jets on Sunday following the 2013 NFL Draft.  Those players will be invited to the Jets upcoming mini camp.

Holliday was sixth on the Panthers team this season with 58 tackles including 8.5 tackles for loss.  Holliday was an All-OVC selection as a senior helping the Panthers win the Ohio Valley Conference title. During his junior season Holliday made 41 tackles starting all eleven games.

Holliday becomes the second EIU player to sign a free agent contract with the Jets joining tight end Dirk Androff in 1983.