In Charleston, they’re calling it the New Era. Through one year, the New Era is well ahead of schedule.
The Panthers are the outright Ohio Valley Conference champions, after a 39-20 win over SEMO today. The win, coupled with an overtime loss by UT Martin at Tennessee Tech, completed a last-to-first one year turnaround in the first season under new head coach Dino Babers.
Icing on the cake for the Panthers: WR Eric Lora caught 15 passes for 178 yards as he broke the OVC record for receiving yards in a season passing SEMO’s Willie Ponder (2002). Lora now has 1,479 yards this season which ranks 14th all-time on the FCS single season list. He has 115 catches on the season which is tied for 5th all-time on the FCS single season list.
Of Lora’s 15 receptions his biggest was a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo with 40 seconds left in the third quarter which gave EIU a 23-20 lead and momentum to close out the game.
As for Babers he became only the fourth coach in OVC history to win the league title in his first season as a collegiate head coach. He joins Boots Donnelly (Austin Peay, 1977), Jason Simpson (UT Martin, 2006) and Dean Hood (Eastern Kentucky, 2008) in that select group.
As for Martin lost, the Skyhawks threw a TD pass with 6 seconds to go in regulation to force overtime. On Tennessee Tech’s first possession, the Golden Eagles converted on 4th and 1, eventually scoring a touchdown. On the Skyhawks possession, a strip sack on 3rd and 10 left Martin with a 4th and 16 with the title potentially on the line.DerekCarrthrew a perfect fade pass off of play action for the touchdown. But on the PAT attempt, UTM tried a fake, which fell well short, giving the Golden Eagles their first conference win, and the Panthers the outright title.
The Panthers, who are still outside the top-25, are ensured a spot in the FCS playoffs. UT Martin is now in a crowded field of 2-loss teams, with a game against Tennessee State looming next Saturday in Martin