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I’m not a big fan of player of the week honors, as I’ve made a point of here on the site on occasion. Part of me feels it’s like giving a blue ribbon to the kid who finished in 8th place in the science fair.

But then this happened. The OVC’s first offensive player of the week is…

The Eastern Illinois offensive line. Seriously. All five of ‘em.

They were picked over wide receivers, running backs, even quarterbacks. Over their quarterback, who was 31-46 for 361 yards with 3 touchdowns in a rout over San Diego State. In fact, he’s not even under “others nominated.”

That offensive line, by the way, didn’t allow a single sack against the FBS Aztecs, and helped EIU run for 172 yards against the best defense in the MWC a year ago.

It’s the first time under the current player of the week format that an O-Line has been given player of the week honors.

They’re totally deserving. And I love the OVC for naming them the offensive player of the week. Here’s the full list of this week’s honors.


OFFENSIVE

Eastern Illinois Offensive Line

Nick Borre, C • So., 6-4, 300 • Bloomingdale, Ill.

Jimmy Lowery, OT • R-Fr., 6-4, 282 • Burr Ridge, Ill.

Dominic Pagliara, OT • Sr., 6-6, 307 • Quincy, Ill.

Alex Pierce, OG • Sr., 6-6, 330 • Carmel, Ind.

Collin Seibert, OG • Jr., 6-4, 277 • Oswego, Ill.

The Eastern Illinois offensive line helped keep All-American quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo safe as the Panthers blasted defending Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State on its way to a 40-19 victory. The 21-point margin of victory was the second-largest win by an OVC team over a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent in history. Overall it marked the fifth FBS win for Eastern Illinois and first since the 2004 season. Against a SDSU defense that returned nine starters from a bowl team a year ago, the Panthers offensive line did not allow a sack and saw Garoppolo only get knocked down on only one pass attempt as the Walter Payton Award candidate completed 31-of-46 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. EIU also gashed the top-ranked rush defense in the MWC for 172 yards on the ground and two rushing scores. The unit included three returning starters (Pagliara, Seibert and Pierce) and two first-year starters (Borre, Lowery).

Others Nominated: Jared McClain, Eastern Kentucky; Max Shortell, Jacksonville State; A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State; Darian Stone, Tennessee Tech; DJ McNeil, UT Martin.


DEFENSIVE

Alex McNulty, DB • Sr., 5-10, 189 • Bolingbrook, Ill. • Eastern Illinois

McNulty helped key the Eastern Illinois defensive attack as the Panthers scored a 21-point victory over Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) foe San Diego State on Saturday night. The redshirt senior was part of a defensive effort that allowed just 19 points, including only one touchdown and four field goals to the defending Mountain West Conference champions. McNulty picked off two passes during the game, making him one of four players at the FCS level to have two interceptions during the opening weekend. He returned those two interceptions for a total of 50 yards while also adding five tackles, a tackle-for-loss for seven yards and two of the team’s 11 pass break-ups. The second interception came midway through the fourth quarter and set up EIU’s final touchdown of the night two plays later.

Others Nominated: David Carter, Eastern Kentucky; Brenton Tolson, Jacksonville State; Nick Thrasher, Tennessee State; Cory Webber, Tennessee Tech; J’vontez Blackmon, UT Martin.


CO-SPECIALIST

Sheperd Little, RB/RS • So., 5-10, 198 • Schaumburg, Ill. • Eastern Illinois

With Eastern Illinois holding onto a seven-point lead over San Diego State early in the fourth quarter, Little broke a punt return for a 60-yard touchdown to put the Panthers ahead comfortably 33-19 on its way to a 40-19 victory over the FBS Aztecs. It marked the first punt return for a touchdown by EIU since the 2010 season. The sophomore also added a kick return for 13 yards and rushed 10 times for 62 yards to account for 161 yards of total offense on the night. It marked the first game action for Little in his Eastern Illinois career.


CO-SPECIALIST

Ladarius Vanlier, RB/RS • 5-7., 170, So • Nashville, Tenn. • Tennessee Tech

Vanlier accounted for 188 all-purpose yards and returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown as Tennessee Tech began the season with a 63-7 victory over Cumberland University. The 93-yard punt return came in the second quarter and was a school record length for the Golden Eagles; overall it marked Tech’s first punt return for a touchdown in 23 seasons. It also came just three minutes after Vanlier had rushed for a 52-yard touchdown. The sophomore also returned the opening kickoff of the game 44 yards and finished the game by averaging 47.0 yards/touch (four total touches) on the night.

Others Nominated: Ben Campbell, Austin Peay; Andrew Lloyd, Eastern Kentucky; Hamish MacInnes, Jacksonville State; Jamin Godfrey, Tennessee State; Jackson Redditt, UT Martin.


NEWCOMER

Max Shortell, QB • Jr., 6-6, 237 • Shawnee Mission, Kan. • Jacksonville State

Shortell, the transfer from the University of Minnesota, came off the bench to help Jacksonville State come-from-behind and top in-state foe Alabama State 24-22. The junior completed 13-of-23 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns after entering the game in the second quarter with JSU down 6-0. He orchestrated scoring drives of 68 and 75 yards to give JSU the lead and then tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Telvin Brown later in the third quarter. He finished the game with a 155.41 passing efficiency.

Others Nominated: Sheperd Little, Eastern Illinois; Makhail Miller, Murray State; Kyle Snyder, Southeast Missouri; Isaiah McKinney, Tennessee Tech; Dylan Favre, UT Martin.


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OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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