It’s homecoming at Eastern Illinois and this year the Panthers will play host to the Tigers of Tennessee State University.
Its been a tough year in Charleston, as Eastern Illinois currently sits at 1-6, and they are coming off a 28-17 loss against no.17 UT Martin in which they had the lead going into the fourth quarter. Tennessee State is looking to extend their winning streak to three coming off victories against Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech.
For the 1-6 Panthers at this point in the season, there have been few bright spots and the numbers bear that out on both sides of the ball. The Panther offense is averaging just 15.1 ppg, only breaking the 20-point barrier twice, in their 26-21 opening week loss to Indiana State and a 31-24 loss to Illinois State. The Panthers have only thrown for 1216 yards amongst three quarterbacks and the team’s leading receiver , Aaron Foulkes, amassing 246 yards. On the ground Harrison Bey-Buie (348 yards) is the leading rusher for a running game averages 101.6 yards per contest. Defensively, Eastern Illinois has surrendered 26.3 points per ballgame and allows 178.7 rushing and 157.1 yards per game.
After a some what shaky start, Grambling transfer Geremy Hickbottom seems to have solidified the quarterback position. In the Tigers last game, against Tennessee Tech, Hickbottom completed 20 of his 34 passes for 256 yards and tossing the game-winning score to Dayton Johnson. He also had a fumble and an interception in the ballgame, and those are the types of mistakes that he will have to clean up , not only Saturday in Charleston, but going forward for the remainder of the season. Running back Devon Starling, who also showed he can be a threat in the passing game as well, is averaging 80.67 and is the leading rusher for a TSU running game that is averaging 128.5 yards per game.
The Panthers defense will allow plays, particularly against the run, which they have shown to be very susceptible to. Devon Starling and Tiger run game should be able feast on the soft underbelly of EIU defense all after noon.
Defensively Tennessee State is a bit offensive friendly allowing 23.83 points and 342.2 yards per game, but considering the ineptitude of the Eastern Illinois offense, they likely will not be able to capitalize enough on the opportunities that will present themselves. Even if the game is close at the half may not bode well for EIU, as tsp has shown to be a greatly improved team in the second half , scoring 71 of their 125 points this season in the third and fourth quarters.